Winner of almost 50 Grand Tour stages during his career, Alessandro Petacchi is attempting to shrug off his 41 years with yet another season in the professional peloton.
The Italian rider was left searching for a team when his two season contract with Omega Pharma-QuickStep was not extended. He has now inked a deal with the former Neri Sottoli squad, which has secured new backing for 2015 and will be funded mainly by the Chinese steel company Southeast Space Frame.
The news of the new sponsor comes days after reports that Neri Sottoli has stepped back from title backing in 2015, and would instead become a smaller supporter of the team.
That company will now invest in the Franco Ballerini junior team.
According to team manager Angelo Citracca, the new agreement with Southeast Space Frame will be what he terms ‘an unprecedented partnership.’
“Our professional team is the first to bring a so important sponsor in the European cycling,” he stated, announcing the Southeast Pro Cycling squad. “This is an incredible opportunity for growth and development. A big “revolution” was made in the team and we will soon announce other great news, but now it’s up to the riders do the job. I wish them a wonderful competitive season.”
The team has been rocked by a number of doping scandals in recent years. Danilo di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio tested positive in 2013, while in 2014 Matteo Rabottini tested positive after an out of competition doping control on August 8.
These have led to the team being suspended by the MPCC anti-doping movement and have also put some pressure on Giro d’Italia organisers RCS Sport not to permit the team to ride this year’s race.
It would normally expect a wildcard by virtue of its victory in the Coppa Italia competition.
Petacchi has been a professional since 1996, racing with teams such as Fassa Bortolo, Milram, Lampre-Farnese Vini and Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
He has clocked up 22 stage wins plus the points classification in the Giro d’Italia, 20 stages plus the points competition in the Vuelta a España and six stages plus the points ranking in the Tour de France.
In addition to that, he has also taken victories in events such as Milan-Sanremo and Paris-Tours.
Having worked in a leadout role for riders such as Mark Cavendish in the past two years, his new team has indicated that he will likely play a similar function.
“The big champion, still hungry for speed, will be able to help the young teammates to sprint,” it stated.
It is not yet clear whether Petacchi will retire after the 2015 season or if he is interested in continuing beyond the end of the year.