By Nigel Wynn
Thursday, August 1, is officially Alessandro Petacchi's first day with the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team.
The Italian sprint veteran had announced his retirement from the Lampre-Merida team shortly after Paris-Roubaix in the spring, but was asked by Mark Cavendish's Belgian team to join them for the remainder of the season.
However, despite his retirement, Union Cycliste Internationale team transfer rules meant that Petacchi had to miss the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France to wait for the official transfer window opening on August 1.
Petacchi's first race for Omega Pharma will be Kortrijk criterium on
August 8, and then take part in the Eneco Tour from August 12-18.
"I joined this team to take on a different role, to be a team player, especially when it comes to the sprints," said Petacchi. "The primary objective is to be useful to the team when necessary and to put my experience to the service of the younger riders."
Petacchi will act as road captain and key lead-out man for Cavendish and Tom Boonen in bunch sprints. Cavendish has not been entirely happy with the erratic functioning of the Omega Pharma lead-out train since switching to the squad from Sky this season.
Thirty-nine year old Petacchi brings with him a wealth of experience, having won six stages of the Tour de France, 22 stages of the Giro d'Italia and 20 in the Vuelta a Espana as well as netting one-day wins in Milan-San Remo and Paris-Tours.
"In my career I've been lucky enough to experience some extreme thrills," said Petacchi. "To get back in the game so close to turning 40 with this great team is, however, an incredible feeling. I want to thank the team, starting with Patrick Lefevere and the team's Board who offered me this great possibility."
Unconfirmed rumours suggest that Cavendish's former Highroad lead-out man Mark Renshaw may also reunite with the Manx Missile at Omega Pharma for 2014, bringing together a formidable lead-out train.
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