Paolo Bettini has confirmed that Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) will lead the Italian team at the world championships in the wake of his win in Vitoria at the Vuelta a España on Saturday. The Italian coach also closed the door on Filippo Pozzato’s chances of selection after he failed to finish GP de Quebec on Friday.
Following the strong performances of Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox) and Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) in recent weeks, Bennati’s status of leader had appeared under threat, and Bettini was pleased that his fellow Tuscan had responded in such a fashion in Spain.
“We needed this win for his morale, which I had heard was in pieces, and to dispel any doubts about the hierarchy of the team. Bennati is there,” Bettini told Gazzetta dello Sport.
Bettini’s squad will be made up of two distinct groups, one to marshal Bennati and another to infiltrate and control breakaways. Matteo Tosatto (Saxo Bank-Sungard) will be the team’s regista, or road captain, while the man who filled the role last year, Luca Paolini (Katusha) will be charged with policing the breaks.
“Paolini will have a more important role this year as he will be the head of the group of attackers. Then if nothing happens, the two groups should merge two laps from the finish,” Bettini said.
The Italian team will set out to shed the main peloton of as many of Bennati’s sprint rivals as possible before the finish, and tactically, they may have an ally of circumstance in the form of the Belgian team.
“Belgium will make the race hard for Gilbert, and we will give them a hand,” Bettini said. “I want there to be at least two of our riders in every break, but sitting in the wheels, eating and drinking. Fast people who can win from a small group, but aware that if it comes down to a sprint, we have Benna.”
After providing a series of pitch-perfect lead-outs for Viviani in recent weeks, Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale) will be the man charged with piloting Bennati in the finishing straight in Copenhagen, assuming the race comes down to a bunch sprint. “Oss is the man to lead out the sprint. He will open it up after the bend, and he must take Bennati to the 200-metre mark,” Bettini explained.
Bettini’s squad will be named officially on Tuesday, but Gazzetta reports that the Italian travelling party will consist of Bennati, Oss, Viviani, Modolo, Paolini, Tosatto, Giovanni Visconti, Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli), Manuel Belletti (Colnago CSF-Inox), Simone Ponzi (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Manuel Quinziato (BMC). Nine of the eleven riders can be selected for the road race on September 25.
“We’re too far from the race to think about who will be the reserves. We’ll see in Denmark,” Bettini said. Riders who have been sanctioned for doping offences in the past are not eligible for selection for the Italian team, following a ruling passed by the Italian federation earlier in the summer. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) is among the riders to have fallen foul of the new policy.
No Pozzato but Pinotti returns for time trial
Leader of the Italian team in Geelong twelve months ago, Filippo Pozzato has been left out of Bettini’s plans this time around, putting the seal on a disappointing season for the Katusha rider. Pozzato travelled to Canada for the GP de Quebec and GP de Montreal in a bid to force his way into the reckoning after an injury-hit summer, but was a non-finisher in Quebec.
“Nothing to be done,” Bettini said. “I don’t know what to think anymore.”
Another rider who suffered injury over the summer is set to compete in the Worlds for Italy, however. Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) is in line for a surprise appearance in the time trial after recently returning to action following his heavy fall at the Giro d’Italia. The man from Bergamo has made himself available for selection alongside Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD).