Italian Federation confirms support of Paolo Bettini despite poor Worlds showing
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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Italian Federation confirms support of Paolo Bettini despite poor Worlds showing

by Ben Atkins at 11:49 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
New policy of excluding former dopers from national team will take time as new generation comes through, says Di Rocco

paolo bettiniAlthough Giorgia Bronzini managed to retain her World title in Copehnagen, Denmark, at the weekend, the best finisher among the Italian men was Daniele Bennati in fourteenth place. With Sacha Modolo the next best Italian, way back in fortieth place, this was the worst return for the Squadra Azzura since 1983 in Altenheim, Switzerland.

That year, as the United States’ Greg Lemond took the first of his two titles, outgoing champion Giuseppe Saronni was the best Italian, back in seventeenth.

One reason for the lack of Italian success on Sunday was that the final uphill dash for the line was a close one for many and, in the lesser places behind Great Britain’s winner Mark Cavendish, the difference between positions was very small. The other, and the reason that the Italians were neither challenging for the victory nor dictating the way the race had gone, was that the new policy of not selecting those with doping in their past meant that the team was far more experienced than usual.

The Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) understands this and, despite its doubtless disappointment, it knows that the new policy will take some time to reap rewards.

"We knew that the decisions taken unanimously by the Federal Council for the renewal of mentality and methods would take time,” said FCI president Renato Di Rocco in a statement. “No one thought of achieving any objectives in the short term.

“The recent experiences of the World championships is part of this transition,” he explained. “Even errors made and limitations in the men’s races in the World championships in Copenhagen were part of a cultural shift in our activities at national level that emphasizes quality over quantity and stimulate the integration between the various disciplines, as happens in most advanced countries.”

Above all, national coach Paolo Bettini, who took over the role from his close friend, the late Franco Ballerini in 2010, still has the support of the FCI.

“To Bettini and all other national technical staff,” Di Rocco explained, “we renew our trust in order to achieve a working model of competitiveness equal to that of the women, where the concept of interdisciplinarity has already been working for some time; while taking into account the different situations, structural organizations and, especially, numbers.”

Prior to Ballerini’s tenure in the national coach role, the Italians were notoriously ill-disciplined at World championships; rarely cooperating, and often working directly against one another, with egos and trade team loyalty often taking precedence over the interests of the national team. The final straw appeared to be Paolo Lanfranchi’s chasing down of a strong late attack form Gilberto Simoni in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2001, which ended with the second victory for Lanfranchi’s Spanish Mapei teammate Oscar Friere.

Ballerini was brought in for the 2002 championships in Zolder, Belgium, where he managed to introduce discipline and teamwork to the men in blue, which resulted in victory for Mario Cipollini. Ballerini also managed to secure the title twice with Bettini, in 2006 and 2007, and once again with Alessandro Ballan in 2008.

While Bettini’s record doesn’t yet match that of his late friend, with fourth place for Filippo Pozzato in 2010 his best result to date, the FCI will bear with him for now; the Tuscan ‘Cricket’ just has to hope that the Italian public and media does too.


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