Petacchi challenged by respiratory problems and grand plans.

Petacchi and Polly.

Alessandro Petacchi can’t breathe.

He’s got bronchial asthma and breathing problems and maybe some lingering shortness of breath from the on-going but nothing-doing dope investigation.

Last summer, Petacchi was accused of using PFC and human serum albumin. He’s already served a suspension for a positive test for salbutamol in 2007. At age 37, another suspension would end his career.

Still, it seems like the asthma is the most pressing problem because nobody knows what is going with the Italian Justice system. Perhaps March is a special focus on the Mafia and they’re just too busy for 37 year old sprinters in lycra shorts.

“I did a week-long course of antibiotics and cortisone. I have always suffered from it, but as a young man it wasn’t as serious. Clearly these strains make themselves felt with age,” said Petacchi. Old age is a bummer but let’s remember Andreas Kloden won today’s stage in Paris-Nice at 37.

Still, with just nine days until Milan-San Remo, the Italian sprinter grows concerned about his health issues. “I missed 15 or 16 days of racing,” Petacchi told Gazzetta dello Sport ahead of the stage. “I thought of giving it all up several times, I thought that I’d lost my entire spring. I should have gone to Qatar and instead I was in hospital with serious bronchial asthma and breathing problems. It was much more serious than you imagine.”

La Primavera is definitely one race where Petacchi would like to make his mark. But he’ll need both his legs and his lungs. “You know what San Remo means to me, I like it, and it means a lot to me to do it to the best of my possibilities, whatever they may be. I want to reach Saturday the 19th at peace with my conscience,” said Petacchi.

Crazy as it seems, given Petacchi’s advancing age and bronchial problems, he’s planning to ride all three grand tours. “I will rider the first part of the Giro [d’Italia], as far as Ravenna,” Petacchi said. “I owe it to Lampre because there’s the team time trial and last year Scarponi saw the Giro slip away because of the time lost in that test. Then I will ride the Tour [de France] and the Vuelta [a Espana] if I have the possibility of doing the Worlds.”

Does Petacchi really think he can pull all that off or is this just hot, wheezing air?

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