Bettini dreams of Flanders

World champion Paolo Bettini starts his day just like every other normal person, with breakfast. "I...

World champion Paolo Bettini starts his day just like every other normal person, with breakfast. "I am good. I only ate Nutella once. Caffè, orange juice and four pieces of toast with peach jam. If I have to go longer [on the bike] then I will have an omelette," explained the charismatic 32 year-old Italian to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The days are ticking by, leading to the start of the 2007 season. Bettini is with his Quick-Step teammates in Calpe, Spain, but soon he will be in the West, the Tour of California. However, the sunny climates of Spain and California serve their purposes for one of his season's major objectives, the Ronde Van Vlaanderen (or Tour de Flanders).

Il Grillo desperately wants to win one of the few classics missing in his palmarès. He is training specifically for the day while also acknowledging that he has a teammate perfectly suited for the race, Belgian Tom Boonen "Flanders is a race that I am still missing," he explained. "Flanders is like a beautiful woman. So, it is like I am not an example of beauty, and my build is not so adapted to this course. I have to work to come from behind; I have to court her... It is right that Tom [Boonen] will have the full disposition of the team, but I hope to have my say too."

The Ronde Van Vlaanderen may be a race of pride, one to put the palmarès, but there is another race Il Grillo is considering, and it is one for strictly financial gain, Abu Dhabi Race of Champions. "This could really become a cycling's new frontier," he quipped. "It could even become more important than, say, [Giro di] Lombardia. In all of the season, in all of the races we don't take that much [money as the Abu Dhabi race is offering].

"We will have to prepare will and go with eight of the strongest riders." Regarding the amount of money on offer, €772,414, Bettini knows it can go to good use at Quick-Step; he added, "In all of this team there are about sixty families to sustain, and that is not small."

If thinking of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Abu Dhabi is not enough to occupy the world champion, he spends his time studying. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Bettini is preparing to become a qualified light aircraft pilot.

"I want to learn to pilot an ultra-light," he noted. "I am studying all of the aviation terms; and what a mess! Then, of the 16 to 20 lessons, three are solo flights. Now, I don't understand much but in a year I hope to know a lot more."

He noted that his knee is fine after a brief scare on Monday, during a long seven-hour training session, totalling 208 kilometres and 3000 metres of climbing. After a day of rest, Bettini returned to train with his teammates (the camp runs through Friday, January 19), thinking of the season's goals.

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