Ballerini travels to Vuelta, clearer idea of Italian Worlds team

Italian director Franco Ballerini visits the Vuelta to finalise Monday's announcement of Worlds team

Italian National Team Director Franco Ballerini is in Spain to observe the Italian riders at the Vuelta a España. Ballerini has six days to decide on the final line-up, before the announcement of Italy's World Championship team on Monday.

"Up until a week ago, I could not picture the national team. I am now starting to see it [come together] and I am getting a good feeling," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The 76th World Championships take place September 27 in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Italy starts as defending champion, having won the last three editions through Alessandro Ballan (2008) and Paolo Bettini (2007 and 2006).

Sunday's Giro della Romagna one-day race in Lugo, Italy, helped Ballerini to assess who might be the team's helpers. After the race, Ballerini heard the news of Damiano Cunego's stage win and Ivan Basso's strong ride in the Vuelta a España's eighth stage to Alto de Aitana. Watching yesterday's stage to Xorret del Catí on television he witnessed yet another strong performance by the duo.

"Valverde and Basso were the strongest. Cunego? He's going well," said Ballerini.

Cunego finished second behind Ballan at last year's Worlds in Varese, Italy. He will be the Italian favourite this year as the Mendrisio course features more climbing than last year's race. The Swiss parcours will take in 4655 metres of ascent, compared to the 3255 metres a year earlier in Italy.

Cunego (Lampre-NGC), Ballan (Lampre-NGC), Basso (Liquigas) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) should lead the team. Acqua & Sapone riders, Stefano Garzelli and Luca Paolini, will likely be second tier leaders and helpers.

Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-NGC) and Michele Scarponi (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, should be named as the team's domestiques. Giovanni Visconti (ISD-Neri), winner of the GP Agostoni and GP Melinda, could be a rider for early escapes, and, according to La Gazzetta, should fill the team's ninth spot.

This year's circuit in Mendrisio is shorter than last year's 17.35-kilometre circuit. It has two climbs, Acqua Fresca and Novazzano, in 13.8 kilometres, repeated 19 times at 262.2 kilometres.

Mendrisio last hosted the Worlds in 1971, when Belgium's Eddy Merckx beat Italy's Felice Gimondi.

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