Italian Paolo Bettini, 34, ended his professional career yesterday with the overall win in the Milano Six Day. The two-time road world champion battled back with partner Joan Llaneras after a serious crash on the opening day.
"I have never won a six day race and this one came after a difficult week. ... I am happy to arrive on top. Ending in the velodrome is beautiful because I felt the enthusiasm of the crowd up close," said Bettini to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Sunday.
Yaroslav Popovych crashed on the track's banking and forced Bettini and Australian Luke Roberts down as well as they tried to avoid Popovych. Bettini broke his helmet after colliding with the track's inner wall. Medics rushed him to the hospital where doctors preformed a check, including a CAT scan of his head, and he had to sit out day two of racing.
"I was afraid on Tuesday, but I could not finish this way."
Bettini fought back in day three and recovered three lost laps in the Madison event with Spaniard Llaneras. The duo won ahead of Filippo Pozzato and partner Roberts by 13 points.
Friends – Luca Paolini and Andrea Tonti – and family – wife Monica, parents Giuliano and Giuliana – arrived on Sunday to watch Bettini's final day of racing. They and the other six day competitors paid a special tribute to the rider from La California on the track following the race.
"I will start a new life now. I know I will miss the races, like Liège [Liège-Bastogne-Liège], but I won't reconsider. ... After 27 years on the bike, it is logical that the group will remain in my heart, but I want to slowly take steps towards a normal life. I will need to have courage to do so. I will not escape, because cycling is my world. I don't know how or when, but you will see me again."