Giro d’Italia 2009: Stage 2. Swift third.
With the gorgeous seaside town of Trieste providing the backdrop to the 156-kilometre opening road stage of the 2009 Giro d’Italia, LPR’s Alessandro Petacchi – once considered the top sprinter in the world – beat the man who many consider to be the best sprinter in the world.
On the long, wide-open, Riva III Novembre boulevard, it was vintage Petacchi: the 35-year-old from La Spezia choosing to jump a massive 300 metres from the line, arms bent, torso still, chin almost touching the stem, and powering his massive 11-cog down the right-side barriers. Cavendish tried to overtake him, but it was useless: Petacchi 1, Cavendish 0.
“Today [Sunday] was the first real win of the year,” said Petacchi, whose victory punch – his 24th at the Giro – would have delivered a knockout blow, had he been in the ring with the Anglophone.
Speaking of Anglophones, a trio of English speakers rounded out Stage 2’s top five, British rider Ben Swift (Katusha), Aussie Allan Davis (Quick Step) and American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) third to fifth, respectively.
“Sprints at the Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta are totally different,” said Petacchi. “I didn’t know much about Cavendish; I saw him win Qatar, I saw him win in Milano-Sanremo, but again, Sanremo is very different to stage races. I wanted to see if he was that fast.
“I started my sprint really far out,” he continued, describing the finale. “I took a risk doing so but I knew [long sprints] don’t suit his characteristics. Sure, I won easily, but it’s not certain that tomorrow or the next time will be the same.”
Said fifth-placed Farrar, “To be honest, I was just thinking about winning the stage; today, winning and taking the pink jersey were going to be one and the same thing.
“Unfortunately I didn’t quite have the right positioning. It was very wide between about four and two kilometres to go, then there were a few bends and your finishing position was pretty much the position in which you went into those bends. And it was chaotic even before that, coming off the climb. I think that’s perhaps why Columbia went too early, just as we hit the front too early with around three kilometres to go.”
It may have been Petacchi‘s 164th career win, but it’s been a long time coming.
“I wasn’t happy watching the Giro on TV last year,” he said, referring to his suspension last year by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for testing non-negative to asthma medication Salbutamol (which Petacchi has clearance to use), resulting in him being fired from his previous team, Milram. “So to win the first stage at the Giro [after my suspension] is very important to me. I’m really happy to be back.”
1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini 3.43.07 (41.951 km/h) 2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia - Highroad 3 Ben Swift (GBr) Team Katusha 4 Allan Davis (Aus) Quick Step 5 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Slipstream