The president of the Italian Cycling Federation Renato di Rocco has assured Paolo Bettini that his job is safe, despite the disappointing performance in Sunday’s elite men road race in Copenhagen.
Bettini built the Italian team around sprinter Daniele Bennati but he and the other ‘Azzurri’ riders struggled in the chaotic finish and Bennati finished a lowly 14th place, behind Mark Cavendish. That was Italy’s worst result in the men’s road race since 1983, when Giuseppe Saronni finished 19th in Altenrheim, Switzerland.
Italy finished sixth in the world championship medal table, winning just a gold medal thanks to Giorgia Bronzini in the women’s road race.
2002 world champion Mario Cipollini criticised Bettini’s strategy and team selection but di Rocco confirmed that Bettini’s job is safe as Italy tries to catch up with other cycling nations.
“We’ve got total faith in Bettini and all the other national coaches. We hope they can all go on to follow the same success and way of working of the women’s team, where a cross discipline concept has already proved successful,” Di Rocco said in an official statement.
Di Rocco has been remodelling Italian cycling in recent months, trying to imitate the success of Great Britain and Australia and their combined use of the track and road racing to develop riders. Italian cycling has a strong tradition on the road but is expected to qualify just one rider for the track at the London 2012 Olympics. Di Rocco has also pushed through new federation rules that stop riders who have been suspended for doping from representing Italy. This meant that Alessandro Petacchi was not selected for the Copenhagen world championships and forced Bettini to opt for younger, less experienced riders.
“We knew that the unanimous decision of the Federal Council regarding the new mentality and new methods would need time. Nobody thought the results would be immediate,” Di Rocco said.
“The results of the world championships indicate we’re in a transition phase. Even the errors and evident limitations the men’s road race showed will help us make a cultural shift in our activities, helping the integration between different disciplines as other, more advanced countries have done.”