AleJet draws curtains on career in which he became member of select group to win points jerseys in all three Grand Tours

Italian sprint legend Alessandro Petacchi has announced his retirement with immediate effect at the age of 39, following nearly two decades as a pro in which he won alm 48 Grand Tour stages – nine of those in the 2004 Giro d’Italia alone – as well as Milan-San Remo and Paris-Tours.

Petacchi, nicknamed Ale-Jet, is one of just four cyclists to have won the points jerseys in all three Grand Tours, the others being Eddy Merckx, Laurent Jalabert and Djamolidine Abdoujaparov – Mark Cavendish missed out on becoming the fifth member of that elite club by just one point last year.

In a statement released through his Lampre-Merida team, Petacchi said:

“Paris-Roubaix closed an early part of the season in which I raced a lot, trying to be protagonist in traditional appointments, such Milano-Sanremo, and in competition for me less usual as Paris-Roubaix.

“I approached all these races in the whole professional way, driven by the enthusiasm that Galbusera family and the new sponsors gave to the team. I’m aware I gave my best, as I always did in the 18 seasons as professional cyclist.

“My career has been full of satisfactions and enriched by all the most important victories that a rider like me could ever aimed to. At the threshold of the 200 victories in career, I feel my life reaches a peculiar moment, a turning point in which I perceive the need to find a new dimension and to have more time to dedicate to my family. These considerations induce me to the decision to pause my career.

“I always put first the professional side of my job, honouring the efforts made by sponsors, such Lampre, Merida and all the other partner of the team: I really thank them for the trust they gave me in these marvellous years.

“I feel it’s time to dedicate time for myself and to go in search for new spurs.

“By now, I want to say goodbye to all the cycling fans, considering that maybe there will be the chance to come back some day to be part on the world that gave me so much, offering my experience to the new cycling generations.

“I’d like to thank the team, the sponsors, the management, the staff and athletes and everyone that supported me during my career, confirming by now my availability to support, when necessary, my mates and the team with advices and my experience.

Your sincerely,

Alessandro Petacchi”

The sprinter, who comes from La Spezia, Liguria, leaves the sport just a week before a preliminary hearing is held relating to the Mantua investigation linked to the Lampre team, although much of its focus relates to the period before he joined it in 2010.

His name does not figure among those potentially facing charges, although in that year he was interviewed as part of a separate investigation based in Padua.

Petacchi himself received a retroactive ban in 2008 and was stripped of results including five Giro stage wins after testing positive for an excessive amount of the asthma drug, Salbutamol.

He was permitted to use it under a therapeutic use exemption, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport, while acknowledging he had not intended to cheat, said he had failed to use appropriate caution to ensure he kept within the appropriate dosage.

Announcement of his retirement also comes less than a fortnight before the Giro d’Italia gets under way in Naples, with Lampre-Merida’s challenge in sprint stages likely to be focused on Roberto Ferrari, signed this year from Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.