PETACCHI OUT OF GIRO D'ITALIA, ASTANA IN?
Alessandro Petacchi will not take part in the Giro d’Italia but it seems that the Astana team almost definitely will.
Petacchi has been suffering with bronchitis since Milan-San Remo and finally threw in the towel on Saturday and confirmed that he will not be fit for the start of the Giro next Saturday in Palermo.
Petacchi will try and recover and then build up for the Tour de France. He will be replaced in Milram’s Giro line-up by Erik Zabel.
Despite initially being snubbed by the Giro d’Italia organisers when the Giro teams were announced in February, the Astana team is set to take part in the Italian stage race after getting a last minute invitation.
An official announcement will only be made at the earliest on Sunday but according to Astana press officer Philippe Maertens Giro organisers RCS Sport has offered Astana a place in the race and team manager Johan Bruyneel has accepted the offer.
Astana were not initially invited to the Giro because they had offered to send a young team based around Janez Brajkovic. The team has now been invited because the new Giro d’Italia squad is set to include Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer and current Tour of Romandie leader Andreas Kloden.
Race director Angelo Zomegnan confirmed that he has been talking the team for a month but claimed there is only a 50% chance of Astana riding the Giro because he has first to make room for them by excluding another team. He is currently working furiously behind the scenes and is expected to convince the tiny Italian NGC team to give up their place.
“Talks are underway with the Astana team regarding Astana’s possible participation in the Giro d’Italia,” Zomegnan confirmed on Saturday afternoon.
“Astana relaunched their request to take part in the Giro about a month ago with a different approach regarding the quality of their riders in their line-up.”
“If Astana do ride, there will naturally be changes to the teams initially invited to the Giro on February 1. All the teams were invited with reserve and so changes could occur before the start of the race. It’s never too late….”
“Talks are still ongoing but an official announcement is likely to be made on Sunday night.”
Astana riders have been labeled as 'persona non grata' in many races this year because of the doping scandals involving the team in 2007.
Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrei Kashechkin tested positive for blood doping and several other riders were involved in doping scandals. The team was taken over by Johan Bruyneel and created an internal anti-doping programme but was still snubbed in many races.
The team was recently invited to the Vuelta Espana in September and is now racing to get ready to travel to Palermo for the start of the Giro. Riders have to be in Palermo on Wednesday afternoon.