Davide Cassani appointed to replace Paolo Bettini as Italian national team coach
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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Davide Cassani appointed to replace Paolo Bettini as Italian national team coach

by Ben Atkins at 6:55 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Rider turned TV-pundit takes over at the top

Paolo BettiniFollowing the resignation of Paolo Bettini (pictured) from his post as Italian national team coach last week, Davide Cassani has been appointed as successor to the former two-time World champion. A professional rider between 1982 and 1996, retiring after being hit by a car while out training, Cassani has spent much of the last decade as a pundit, summariser and commentator on Italian national TV station RAI. The announcement was made by Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) president Renato Di Rocco, following a meeting with honorary FCI president Alfredo Martini in Sesto Fiorentino, Tuscany.

"In an atmosphere of great familiarity, also because of the hospitality received by the honorary president Alfredo Martini, I can confirm the investiture of Davide Cassani to the role of national team coach,” said. “There are all the conditions to begin a new chapter and a new adventure where you will always be stronger than the bond and sense of belonging to the Maglia Azzurra. The expertise of Davide Cassani, his willingness to serve in this role and his enthusiasm are a very auspicious start to this project.”

Like Bettini, and the late Franco Ballerini before him, Cassani has little experience as a coach, although he served for one year in 1997 as a directeur sportif with Marco Pantani’s Mercatone Uno team.

Cassani is probably best known outside Italy as the man that inadvertently outed Michael Rasmussen as having lied about his whereabouts to anti-doping authorities during the run up to the 2007 Tour de France. While praising the Dane’s professionalism during the Tour, Cassani mentioned that he had bumped into Rasmussen, training in the Italian Dolomites, while he himself was reconnoitring the stages of the Giro d’Italia.

Rasmussen had told anti-doping authorities that he was at his wife’s family in Mexico at the time, but members of his then Rabobank team confronted the Dane with Cassani’s comments, and he was withdrawn from the Tour and fired while wearing the yellow jersey.

Cassani, who won two stages of the Giro d’Italia in the early 1990’s, was also in the news in 2010 as he claimed to have ridden a bike equipped with the small electric motor that some had accused Fabian Cancellara of using during his Classics domination that spring.

With Ballerini having united the famously individualistic Italian team to win the World title with Mario Cipollini in 2002, Bettini himself in 2006 and 2007, then Alessandro Ballan in 2008 - as well as a bronze medal for Luca Paolini in 2004 and a silver for Damiano Cunego in 2008 - and an Olympic title for Bettini in 2004, the Tuscan was a tough act to follow after his tragic death in a rally accident in 2010.

Despite the Italians continuing their united front under Bettini, the former champion was unable to produce the same success as his predecessor and friend, with fourth places for Filippo Pozatto in 2010 and Vincenzo Nibali in 2013 his best returns.

Nicknamed “The Commissaire” during his racing career, thanks to his apparently knowing everything about everybody, Cassani authors Italy’s annual Cycling Almanac, and was also a co-author of a biography of Pantani. As a respected broadcaster and journalist, he will presumably command similar respect among the riders as both Ballerini and Pantani, but whether his success will match the former or the latter remains to be seen.


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