Paolo Bettini is keeping watch on his adversaries for the World Championships, September 28, where the 34 year-old Italian has the possibility of making history. If he can battle the likes of Oscar Freire and Philippe Gilbert, Bettini could become the first rider to win the road title three times in a row.
Before Bettini can go on treble – what Georges Ronsse, Rik Van Steenbergen, Rik Van Looy and Gianni Bugno were unable to do after their doubles – he has to battle a strong cast of characters. Something he found difficult in Beijing, when his Spanish rivals overpowered Team Italia.
The course in Varese has 237 metres of climbing over the 17.35-kilometre course, with the men facing 3555 metres of climbing over their 15 laps.
Tom "Boonen is going strong, but the course is too tough for him. Amongst the Belgians I have the most faith in [Greg] Van Avermaet," Bettini assessed of his rivals, in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. Oscar "Freire is always dangerous: it is already two years now that I have been saying that he can win Varese. [Alejandro] Valverde will be third, but you can't let him out of your sights. ... [Philippe] Gilbert, [Nick] Nuyens and [Sylvain] Chavanel will be very strong. I don't have news about the Schlecks."
Bettini did not mention Germany's Stefan Schumacher, but he did point to Linus Gerdemann. "If he is going like he did in August, then that is the stuff needed to win the worlds. He will have to try to drop us, because in the sprint he does not have possibilities."
'Il Grillo Livornese' is racing in the Vuelta a España, where he has already recorded two stage wins. The second stage win came in dramatic style after he announced he would not be racing for Team Quick Step in 2009. He expects to abandon the race in the coming days to prepare for the treble.