Alessandro Petacchi may return from his brief retirement to lead out Cavendish in the Giro d’Italia, but it would not be without controversy.
The 39-year-old sprinter told team Lampre-Merida he needed more family time and felt unable to meet his contractual obligations earlier this month. The team worked with him to allow an early exit and announced his retirement one week ago. He leaves behind 17 years in cycling, 22 Giro and six Tour de France stages. In 2010, he won the Tour’s green jersey as well.
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However, it may not be over. When reached yesterday, Petacchi was training.
A spokesman for Cavendish’s Omega Pharma-Quick Step told Cycling Weekly that general manager, Patrick Lefevere is interested in Petacchi. However, they are not talking since the federation’s rules make the situation tricky.
The governing body, the UCI may decide as early as today if such a move is possible.
Riders typically must wait until August 1 to talk and to announce transfers for the coming year. Petacchi’s case is particular as he is now an ex-rider.
Lampre’s press officer told Cycling Weekly that the team acted in good faith. If Petacchi struck a deal with Omega Pharma, it would immediately appeal to the UCI. Besides fast twitch muscles, UCI points and common sense are at stake.
Petacchi failed to respond when Cycling Weekly called him again today for comment.
Lefevere could slot Petacchi into Cavendish’s sprint train for the Giro or at least for the Tour. Cavendish and the train has come under fire after a few hiccups, most notability in Belgium’s Scheldeprijs one-day race on April 3.
“[Cavendish was] very disappointed and angry,” Iljo Keisse told Cycling Weekly regarding the derailed train and near miss to Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano).
“We don’t really have the big train to put him in the best position. We have to work on that.”
To skirt controversy Lefevere may decide to overlook Petacchi and continue to rework Omega Pharma’s existing components. Keisse would act as road captain, delivering the final members into the final three to two kilometres. Cavendish would rely on Matteo Trentin or Gert Steegmans as his final lead-out.
“There’s no point in giving up on 2013 now, I think they are strong enough to get it together,” sport and development manager, Rolf Aldag told Cycling Weekly. “We have to give them the confidence that they can do it and we have to get ourselves out of [this problem].”