It is not Paolo Bettini at the top step of the podium, but another Italian Alessandro Ballan with teammate Damiano Cunego in second at the World Championships in Varese, Italy.
The winning move came from a breakaway of 12 that had a decent enough gap and a selection of enough big names to last. Three Italians were featured in the break including Davide Rebellin, Damiano Cunego and Ballan. Others in the break were Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain who ever present in front and Matt Breschel who placed third. Since Italy had the numbers and the home turf advantage, the rest of the breakaway companions woul dnot help much. Riders took turns attacking and let the Italians chase. Later on the Italians took control launching progressive attacks to keep the rest of the break on their heels. Rebellin and Cunego could not get much daylight when they would attack.
ROBERTO BETTINI/AFP/Getty Images
Finally with about 2km to go Ballan launched a counter attack that the rest of the break could not respond to. Ballan was off and had enough time to cross the line with his hands in the air. Meanwhile in the main peloton Erik Zabel and Paolo Bettini rode in at a tourist pace with Bettini celebrating Ballans win and waving to the fans to finish out his last race.
DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images
pic from Flickr user mnorri
Paolo will be passing Lance on the way to the punch clock. The small Italian rider with huge thighs earned the nickname “Il Grillo” since he looks like a cricket ready to pounce from his bike. The plucky one day racer has a long list of big Classics victories from Milan San Remo to the Giro di Lombardia.
Paolo Bettini decided to call it a career after the World Championship Road Race tomorrow. The two time World Champ and Athens Olympic Champion decided to put an end to the illustrious career. Bettini started in the late 90s on MG Technogym and the heir apparent to Classics man Michele Bartoli. Bettini later moved to powerhouse squad Mapei where he has worked with Director Sportif Patrick Lefevre (Mapei/Quick Step) ever since.
Bettini winning Liege Bastonge Liege
Bettini won several classics including Liege Bastongne Liege twice in 2000 and 2002.
Bettini in Mapei colors.
Paolo Bettini found his winning ways ahead of Phillipe Gilbert, Alejandro valverde and Oscar Friere in a tough sprint during the Vuelta’s Stage 6 into Toledo. The final kilometers included an attack by the unlucky Damiano Cunego who suffered through crashes two days ago that left him a few minutes behind in GC. Bettini’s win comes after a few unsuccessful attempts in the past few stages. His attacks were to make up for being bogged down by team tactics during the Olympic Games where he had to defend the breakaway that contained teammate and Silver medalist Davide Rebellin.
Meanwhile, Sylvain Chavanal took over the Golden Fleece of leadership with the help of time bonuses. Astana did not seem as interested in contesting the sprints to keep the lead in the GC since they have long term ambitions with Alberto Contador or even Leipheimer.
The Italians were pretty excited to have Bettini win. Check out the reaction from the Italian box featuring an interview with Paolo’s wife Monica. See some behind the scenes moments after the race as Bettini and crew enjoy a beer and an interview with Italian Team Director Franco Ballerini
These are all from the Gazzette dello Sport site so obviously in Italian.
AP Photo/Daniel Maurer
Paolo Bettini was almost going to be sitting at home watching the Worlds instead of defending his World Championship of 2006. The reigning World Champ was defending himself on charges of not signing an anti-doping declaration and was almost banned from starting the race. Cooler heads prevailed and Bettini was on the start line. The events of the week motivated Bettini who had a relatively quiet year as World Champ.
Paolo Bettini is cleared to defend his title at the World Championships in Stuttgart Germany. Following the denial of Danilo DiLuca who is about to receive a four month preliminary ban , Bettini was ready to also go home. This Worlds is best know for the polemics of who will or will not race. Erik Zabel, Bettini, DiLuca and Alejandro Valverde have all been in limbo about their Worlds involvment. DiLuca looks to have some charges in the mysterious “Oil for Drugs” case being looked at in Italy, Zabel admitted to doping in the 90s and Velverde *may* have some involvement in Operation Puerto although no solid evidence or case has emerged. Now, Bettini was not being admitted on the basis of not signing a decree to by the UCI that was deemed “optional” and to submit to a compulsory blood test ahead of the Worlds.
The burden of proof is now on the racers and not on the various doping agencies. After the somewhat questionable outcome of the Landis case is it any wonder why a racer would distrust giving a voluntary sample? The French labs were acknowledged to have been sloppy and made numerous mistakes, so why submit a sample if you do not have to? Why does their have to be a gestapo like prosecution of athletes merely on the basis of suspicion or not abiding to arbitrary rules? True doping continues to be an issue in cycling, but these overly aggressive methods put cycling in the doping spotlight unnecessarily. Bettini is breaking no rules.
Paolo Bettini still raw with emotion from his brother’s recent death won the Giro di Lombardia with class. He dedicated the win to his fallen brother as he crossed the line with tears streaming from his eyes. Paolo drew much inspiration from his brother saying that he felt like he was not alone on the road.
Here is a video of a lap of Giro D’Emillia featuring Paolo Bettini wearing gold shorts.
Check out the finish of the World Championships. The field was never really split up until the final kilometers when Sammy Sanchez setup a great leadout for Valverde. Zabel probably went too soon as he was the first to attack from the group of three. The outburst of emotion by Bettini is worth wathcing. Do you think he has been frustrated by all of the near misses?