After a Spring Classics and Giro d'Italia campaign, World Champion Paolo Bettini had some time to relax with young fans as part of Paolo Bettini Day this last week, where, upon reflection of a rather tough early season for the 34 year-old, he indicated Damiano Cunego as successor to his captain's role of the Italian national team. 'Il Piccolo Principe' Cunego took top honours in this year's Amstel Gold Race and País Vasco stage five, adding to his palmarès that include the 2004 Giro d'Italia overall and two editions of the Giro di Lombardia.
"Amongst the young riders there is one that is a little older, Cunego," indicated Bettini to Agr while surrounded by young inspiring professionals. "He has already a lot of experience, including winning the Giro and some important Classics, and it will be him who pulls the strings of the gruppo azzurro a little in the future."
Bettini's leadership was capitalised on three times with two World Championship titles and one Olympic Gold, however, he is at the end of his career. A decision is expected soon as to whether or not he will race in 2009.
"To do another season alla Bettini, from February to October, will not be easy," confessed Bettini. "I would like to impose myself differently this next year by passing on my experience to the youngsters."