Italian team looks ahead as Paolo Bettini takes over
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Italian team looks ahead as Paolo Bettini takes over

by Samuel Morrison at 9:25 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
Paolo Bettini looks forward to his new role as Italian DS

Paolo BettiniSince the death of Franco Ballerini in February, the Italian national team has ceased looking ahead to the World Championships in Australia. That chanced yesterday in Rome when three time gold medallist Paolo Bettini officially took over the role as national director.

On October 3, he will guide the Italian team on the Words course from Melbourne to Geelong. It will not be a completely new as he has some experience as a coach. Besides winning two titles and one Olympic gold, he assisted Ballerini at last year's Worlds in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

"In Melbourne, October 3rd, we will be organised and dangerous," Bettini told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I know the group; I know I'll have to rely a lot on the very same riders who helped me win: those who know what the importance of the team is and what it will mean for Ballerini."

Ballerini died in Larciano, Italy, after suffering injuries 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 already travelled to Australia to see the course and had talked with Bettini about what he saw.

"Ballerini spent a lot of time talking to me about the course. It feels as though I have seen it already," Bettini continued.

"The favourite is Oscar Freire. The Worlds are not a stage of the Giro, where you know before it starts if it will be a sprint or not. For instance, Mark Cavendish: he will have to manage 260 kilometres. Alessandro Petacchi and Daniele Bennati? They are on my list.

"Filippo Pozzato: Before he became a leader he won the Olympics and two World Championships with me. Matteo Tosatto, Luca Paolini and Marzio Bruseghin: They are the pillars of the team, and I need to start talking with them. They have always sacrificed their hearts and souls for the Worlds, and they are the first to say 'Leave me at home because I am not feeling at 100 per cent.'

"I need loyalty, honestly and sincerity. Plouay in 2000, Lisbon in 2001, Madrid in 2005: those are situations that I don't want to see again, ugly scenes at the end of the race."

Bettini started his professional career in 1997 and retired after the 2008 World Championships. As 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 still go by and visit Martini for coffee and cookies, like Franco did. I talk with him regularly and will keep doing so. For m, he is like talking to Franco.

"I thought about this position a lot. I thought, 'I could just stay at home and rest on my couch.' But, I saw at the Giro d'Italia all the fans and the others that want me there."

Bettini added that he has an annual contract of €100,000 that runs through the 2012 Olympics in London.


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