Italian Alessandro Petacchi will leave team Omega Pharma-QuickStep for 2015, having originally been signed to the team to help Mark Cavendish at the Tour de France. The 2010 Tour’s points classification winner, who turns 41 in January, may ride in the yellow colours of Italian second division team Neri Sottoli.
“We can’t say anything yet, even if there are talks going on,” Neri Sottoli’s sports director, Luca Scinto told Cycling Weekly. “We have our eyes on two or three riders. In a week, we will have the deals sorted out.”
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Petacchi briefly retired in 2013 but Cavendish and team Omega Pharma talked him out of retirement. He helped Cavendish win three stages at the Tour of Britain after signing for the Belgian team.
“He’s really smooth, like following Mark Renshaw again,” Cavendish said in January. “His rhythm is perfect, his vision of the peloton in the bunch is remarkable, he’s so clever. I’m honoured to ride with him, he’s one of the greatest sprinters of all time.”
With Renshaw and other younger riders, General Manager Patrick Lefevere had little space left for Petacchi in his 2015 roster.
“I was disappointed because I was happy in the Belgian team,” Petacchi told Tutto Bici. “They talked to me about re-signing, but then my age must have weighed on their minds, and I can understand that.”
Since turning professional in 1996, 19 years ago, ‘Ale-Jet’ collected 22 Giro d’Italia and six Tour de France stage wins. He lost some victories due to an anti-doping ban in 2008 for asthma inhaler drug, Salbutamol. His wins and experience could be helpful for Italy’s Neri Sottoli if he signs for 2015.
“Petacchi’s got experience, he’s a big name and he could help our new young Under 23 sprinter who’s turning pro, Jakub Mareczko,” the team’s general manager, Angelo Citracca told Cycling Weekly.
“Whether or not he’d help get an invitation for the Giro d’Italia, that’s for the organiser to answer, but he’d help with any race invitation, not just the Giro, given his palmarès.”
Petacchi explained that he was in talks with two other teams for 2015. He added, “I know I can’t compete with the strongest sprinters, but I feel good and I could be useful helping teams and for some young sprinters.”
Alessandro Petacchi, now 40, is Omega Pharma's nominated sprinter at the Giro d'Italia
Italian sprint veteran Alessandro Petacchi talks about being a key player in Mark Cavendish's Omega Pharma sprint train next season