Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) took part in his first race for 93 days on Wednesday, riding the first half of the GP Castelfidardo race on the Italian Adriatic coast.

Petacchi fractured his left kneecap in a crash during the third stage of the Giro d?Italia and was forced to miss the Tour de France after using crutches for 40 days. He started training on July on July 6 but has been careful to work on rebuilding his weakened leg muscles to avoid future injuries and imblances.

?I?ve never been out of action for so long and I couldn?t wait to race again,? Petacchi said.

?I?d hoped to ride for even longer but two short climbs made the racing hard and so it wasn?t easy to stay in the peloton. However I?m happy with how things went because 100km was my first objective.?

?My knee didn?t bother me under effort and so I can say I?ve made another step forward on the road to recovery. I know I can?t rush things because the circumference of my left leg is still three centimetres smaller than my right leg but it?s good to be back.?

?I?ve got about a 70% chance of riding the Vuelta but it will all depend on how I feel in the next two weeks. I?ll probably ride two races in Germany this weekend and then the Regio Tour (August 16-20). After that we?ll know exactly how fit I am and how much training and racing I can handle. On things is for sure, I haven?t forgotten how to win sprints and will eventually be back to my best.?

The GP Castelfidardo was won by Italy?s Paolo Bossoni of the small Tenax team. He was part of a break of 12 riders and then beat Alessandro Bertolini (Selle Italia) and Eddy Serri (Miche) in a sprint. On Tuesday Andrea Tonti (Acqua & Sapone) won the first race of the two-day series in a similar sprint.

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