Ballerini places his bet on Bettini

Unlike in years past, the Italian team heads to the World Championships with one leader. Paolo...

Unlike in years past, the Italian team heads to the World Championships with one leader. Paolo Bettini, two-time world champion and 2004 Olympic champion, will captain the nine-man team this Sunday in Varese.

"If you look at the results in the last years, Bettini is almost a guarantee. It is worth the risk," said team director, Franco Ballerini, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Bettini won the last two editions and finished in the top ten three other occasions.

The 2008 season was dry for Paolo Bettini, like last year. His first win did not come until July and he really did not prove his readiness until the Vuelta a España. He took two stage wins on the Iberian Peninsula; the second stage win came in dramatic style after he announced he would not be racing for Team Quick Step in 2009.

"I am optimistic and I don't want to think of the negatives," said Ballerini when asked if Bettini was on form. "In any case, Paolo would work for the others, because he was born as a domestique."

Ballerini has a second front should his one captain approach fail. Davide Rebellin, Damiano Cunego and Alessandro Ballan are the star-studded defence line behind Bettini.

"Rebellin is a definite alternative. Ballan and Cunego cold also have their chances from an escape."

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