Veteran sprinter Petacchi joins Omega Pharma
BRUSSELS (AP) — Veteran Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi came out of retirement Thursday and started training with the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team.
The 39-year-old Petacchi started the season with Lampre-Merida, but quit the sport in April. While Petacchi had reportedly been in contact with Omega Pharma for a while, UCI rules forbid mid-season transfers until Aug. 1.
“To get back in the game so close to turning 40 with this great team is an incredible feeling,” said Petacchi, who will act as lead-out for Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen. “It may take me a while to get back into a competitive rhythm, but I can’t wait to get started.
“I joined this team to take on a different role, to be a team player, especially when it comes to the sprints. The primary objective is to be useful to the team when necessary and to put my experience to the service of the younger riders.”
Petacchi’s first race will be the Kortrijk criterium on Aug. 8.
Petacchi won 22 Giro d’Italia stages, 20 at the Spanish Vuelta, and six at the Tour de France. He served a nine-month ban for excessive use of an asthma drug at the 2007 Giro and was stripped of his five stage wins.
Omega Pharma also announced the signing of Rigoberto Uran and Mark Renshaw for the following two seasons.
Renshaw’s move from Dutch team Belkin sees the Australian reunited with Cavendish. Renshaw was the British sprinter’s preferred lead-out man for three years.
“After a couple of years apart, riding on the same team as my good friend Mark Cavendish again is something I am going to enjoy,” Renshaw said. “It will be great returning to lead-out duty’s fighting for victories with Cav. Hopefully we will celebrate many wins with him and the rest of the team.”
The 26-year-old Uran spent the past three seasons with Team Sky and has a growing reputation. The Colombian followed up his silver medal at the 2012 Olympics with second place in this year’s Giro, where he also won a stage.
“Rigoberto’s arrival reinforces our team as far as the major tours are concerned,” Omega Pharma team manager Patrick Lefevere said. “Uran is a top rider and his talent on climbs goes without saying. On our team he will find an atmosphere and a group of riders who are ready to support him.”