Bettini to direct team Italy
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bettini to direct team Italy

by Samuel Morrison at 4:49 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
Two-time World Champ fills Ballerini's role

paolo bettiniPaolo Bettini will officially accept the role of national sports director Wednesday, announced the Italian cycling federation (FCI). VeloNation reported last month that he would take over the role from Franco Ballerini, who died in a rally car accident February 7.

For Bettini, 36, the position marks another step in his career. He began as a helper, became leader with his win the 2000 Liège-Bastogne-Liège and confirmed is status with numerous wins, including another Liège, the Milano-Sanremo and Giro di Lombardia twice.

Racing in Ballerini's national team, Bettini won three gold medals: the 2004 Olympics and the World Championships in 2006 and 2007. Ballerini took another gold medal at the 2008 World Championships with Alessandro Ballan, making five in total with Mario Cipollini's win in 2002.

Now it is Bettini's responsibility to guide the national team as the FCI announced yesterday in a short statement, a side note to a larger statement.

"I would have never wanted to take over this role because Italy already had a great DS, he was amazing," Bettini told La Stampa. "They asked me and in the end I accepted, also because of the friendship I had with Franco."

Davide Cassani and Maurizio Fondriest were both candidates, but Bettini was the natural successor. After retiring in 2008, Bettini assisted Ballerini at the first opportunity, last year's Worlds in Mendrisio, Switzerland. His work was seen as training ahead of Ballerini's scheduled retirement following the 2012 Olympics.

Ballerini died at the age of 45 in Larciano, Italy, due to injuries suffered in a rally car race. The car driven by Italian Alessandro Ciardi, co-piloted by Ballerini, strayed off course and crashed into a wall.

He had taken on the role as sports director in 2001, following his retirement. He raced for 16 years, winning the Paris-Roubaix in 1995 and 1998.

Bettini started his professional career in 1997 and retired after the 2008 World Championships. Taking on the role of national sports director, he adds his name to a list that includes Constante Girardengo (before World War II), Alfredo Binda (1949-1960), Fiorenzo Magni, Mario Ricci, Nino Defilippis, Alfredo Martini (1974-1997), Antonio Fusi (1998-2000) and Ballerini (2001-2009).

"I don't know if I have the capacity to be a DS, but Franco taught me a lot, above all diplomacy, which is not my strong suit," continued Bettini.

He will likely travel to in Geelong, Australia, to preview the 2010 World Championships course, which Ballerini saw in November.

"Ballerini already talked to me about the course. It is for strong, fast men. Wait and see, Italy will do well at the Worlds. It has to for the nation, and for Franco."


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