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Italian sprinter Petacchi retires

Alessandro Petacchi of Italy celebrates on the podium after winning the 244km second stage of the Giro d'Italia cycling race from Alba to Pa
Alessandro Petacchi of Italy celebrates on the podium after winning the 244km second stage of the Giro d'Italia cycling race from Alba to Pa

PARIS (Reuters) - Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi has ended his 18-year professional career during which he claimed 48 stage wins in the grand Tours.

"I feel that it is time to take some time for myself and try to find some new challenges," the 39-year-old Petacchi said in a Lampre-Merida team statement on Tuesday.

"I gave my best, as I always did in the 18 seasons as professional rider".

Petacchi, who turned professional in 1996, won six stages in the Tour de France, 22 in the Giro d'Italia and 20 in the Tour of Spain.

His 2007 Giro results were erased after he failed a dope tests for the banned substance salbutamol, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) saying he had not been cautious enough in taking medication.

A clever sprinter, Petacchi won the green jersey for points classification in the 2010 Tour de France, a feat he also achieved in the 2004 Giro and 2005 Tour of Spain.

He also won the prestigious Milan-San Remo classic in 2005, one year after taking a record nine Giro stages.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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