Italian sprinter Daniele Bennati has suffered with illness and injury for the last two years but showed he is back on form with second place behind Thor Hushovd at the Vuelta a Espana on Thursday
The 29 year-old Tuscan missed both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France but hopes to hit his best form during the Vuelta and secure a place in the Italian nine-rider squad for the world championships in Melbourne.
Italian coach Paolo Bettini faces the dilemma of whether to include a strong sprinter like Bennati in the team or go for a more aggressive line-up. The finishing circuit in Geelong seems too tough for a pure sprinter but Bennati proved at the Vuelta that he can climb and sprint as well Thor Hushovd and Allan Davis of Australia. He could be Italy's best option if the world championships is a controlled race and ends in a sprint.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, there is only a 30% chance that Bettini will select a sprinter for the Italian team. But if he does, Bennati is favourite for the place. Bettini will be at the Vuelta this weekend and Bennati hopes to convince him he deserve a place on the plane for Melbourne. Bettini will name his team on September 15.
"I still hope to get a place in the team," Bennati told Gazzetta dello Sport after the finish in Murcia.
"Second place is like a win for me and is a huge boost for my morale. Thor was better than me but I could have been closer. It was just a pity that as I was going past Gilbert, he moved left a little and I had to stop pedaling for a second."
"I'm suffering from the changes in pace during the race but that's because I didn’t do the Tour de France and haven't raced much. But my form is growing and my data proves it. I put out 1500 watts in the sprint. That's not bad after such a tough stage."
Bennati went deep on the late climb that caused the likes of Mark Cavendish, Alessandro Petacchi, Tyler Farrar and Oscar Freire to finish ten minutes down. But he fought to limit his losses and got back on the descent.
"I suffered on the Alto de La Cresta del Gallo because I did a big effort to be up near the front for the start. I slipped off the back but then got back on the descent thanks to my teammates. It was worth the effort."