Erik Zabel replaces his sick teammate in the hunt for stage wins in the Italian Grand Tour

03 May 2008.  Alessandro’s Petacchi dream of stage wins in the upcoming Giro d’Italia (10.05-01.06) has come to an end.  The MILRAM sprinter, who was one of the favorites for victory in the sprint stages, has had to cancel his start in the race through his homeland because of a serious bronchitis.

“I’m very sorry that I won’t be able to start in the Giro d’Italia,“ said the MILRAM sprinter, who already has eight wins to his credit this season.  „Yesterday I thought that I would be able to start, even if my condition is very bad because I have not been able to train the last 12 days. I feel  better now but there is not enough time for a good training. So, I agreed with our tem manager Gerry Van Gerven, that I would instead prepare myself for the Tour de France.”

The 34 year old has suffered for two weeks from a serious case of bronchitis which he caught in the Tour of Turkey.  Since then, the star sprinter, who lives in Lido de Camaiore, has been taking strong antibiotics, which have prevented him from training

With his 24 stage wins, Petacchi is one of the most successful Giro participants  In 2004, the blond sprinter set a post-War record with nine stage wins.  In 2007, „Ale-Jet“, as the fans call him, won five stages and the point classification for the second time.

Erik Zabel will take the role of MILRAM captain in Petacchi’s place.  The 37 year old sprinter from Unna is currently recovering from a knee injury which he suffered in a crash in Fleche Wallone and which forced him to cancel his appearance in Rund um den Henninger Turm.

„Erik Zabel will start out of respect for the Giro d’Italia.  He is a great athlete and immediately agreed,“ said team manager Gerry van Gerwen.  „We are having a lot of medical problems at the moment.  Luckly we have two top sprinters in our ranks, who can go after stage wins in the Grand Tours.“

It will be the second Giro for the speedy German in his long and successful career.  In 2005 he rode the Giro for the first time for his then T-Mobile team.

The provisional MILRAM line-up for the Giro d‘Italia: Erik Zabel (GER / Unna), Alberto Ongarato (ITA / Padua), Marco Velo (ITA / Brescia), Markus Eichler (GER / Mönchengladbach), Enrico Poitschke (GER / Gera), Fabio Sabatini (ITA / Monsummano Terme), Sergio Ghisalberti (ITA / Bergamo), Igor Astarloa (ESP / Monte Carlo), Matej Jurco (SVK / Liptovsky Hradok)

Directeur sportif:  Antonio Bevilacqua, Oscar Pellicioli (both ITA)

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