July 02, 2004
Cipollini handicaps sprinters' chances
Mario Cipollini was, for a time, the best sprinter in the world. "Super" Mario has 12 stage wins in the Tour, and a record 42 stage wins at the Giro d'Italia. This year was the first time Cipollini was shut out at the Giro, as a bad crash knocked him out early.
Cipollini's crown has been challenged by Alessandro Petacchi, who had an amazing Giro, winning 9 stages this year alone. Cipollini hasn't ridden the Tour in 5 years, while Petacchi won 4 stages of last year's Tour.
Cipollini is marking Petacchi, Tom Boonen, and Erik Zabel in the sprints.
Petacchi, for his part, is downplaying his chances at multiple sprint wins, and pooh-poohing the overall green jersey competition:
“It doesn’t really interest me,” said the Fassa Bortolo sprinter in his pre-Tour press conference. “I want to concentrate on getting stage victories. It might surprise but my aim is the very reasonable goal of a stage win during the first week. I won’t be thinking about any more than that initially. If I was thinking about the green jersey from the start I would then have to dispute the intermediate sprints, which would be a sure way of missing out on what really counts, the last sprint of the day.”
The Tour will be the first head-to-head meeting between Petacchi, and Belgium's Tom Boonen, who has 13 victories so far this season.
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