Alessandro Petacchi has joined Omega Pharma-Quick Step, the signing of the 39-year-old until the end of 2014 announced today as cycling’s transfer window opens. Petacchi, one of only five men to win the points jerseys at all three Grand Tours, will among other things play a key role in the leadout train of the latest member of that club, Mark Cavendish.
The latter completed his treble by securing the points jersey at the Giro d’Italia in May, and before that race started it looked as though Petacchi, who had left Lampre-Merida the previous month after announcing his retirement, would be joining him until world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, blocked the move.
The Italian, nicknamed AleJet, joins Omega Pharma-Quick Step in the wake of a Tour de France that while successful for the team – it took four stage victories – was disappointing personally for Cavendish, who took two stage wins, his lowest haul from the race since his debut Tour in 2007.
Cavendish found himself outgunned by Marcel Kittel, winner of four stages, including becoming the first rider ever to beat the Manxman on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, and focusing attention once again on the quality of Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s leadout for their star sprinter.
Petacchi, with 162 professional wins – nine of those coming in the 2004 edition of the Giro d’Italia – and like Cavendish a past winner of Milan-Sanremo, is relishing getting into his new role.
“I joined this team to take on a different role, to be a team player, especially when it comes to the sprints,” he said, quoted on the Omega Pharma-Quick Step website.
“The primary objective is to be useful to the team when necessary and to put my experience to the service of the younger riders."
Alessandro Petacchi in his new team jersey (picture: OPQS)
His first race comes a week today, Petacchi outlining his schedule for the next few weeks.
"I'll wear the jersey for the first time on the Kortrijk criterium on August 8th. Then I'll be on the starting grid on another circuit on the 10th, and after that there's the Eneco Tour — a perfect race to get back into the swing of things after an inactive period. It may take me a while to get back into a competitive rhythm, but I can't wait to get started!"
He added: “In my career I've been lucky enough to experience some extreme thrills. 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."
Regarding his new team, he conceded: "I haven't had much contact for the moment, but I have to say that the impression I get as an outside observer is that of a very tight knit team with a great staff. You can also tell there is a great team spirit. When the team embraced Matteo Trentin after his victory in the Tour, that is a beautiful example of it."
Petacchi and Cavendish, now team mates, have had a strong rivalry in the past, including the Italian winning the points classification at the 2010 Tour de France by a margin of 11 points.
The following year, on Stage 2 of the Giro d’Italia in Parma – shown in the main picture above – Petacchi edged out Cavendish for the sprint, the latter remonstrating as they crossed the line that his rival had impeded him in the finale, althoug he did have the consolation of getting into the race leader's maglia rosa as a result of time bonuses.
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.