Mario Cipollini has called on Italian national coach Paolo Bettini to select Elia Viviani of Liquigas-Cannondale for the world road race championships after his back to back stage wins at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Viviani won the sprints in Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge and then led-out teammate Daniel Oss before finishing second in Denver on the last day of the race.
The 22-year-old from Verona is an accomplished track rider, finishing second in the Scratch event at this year's world championships, but has won six races on the road this year.
Cipollini, the world road race champion in Zolder, Belgium in 2002, pointed out that expected Italian team leader Daniele Bennati has yet to earn a special protected status in the nine-rider squadra and advised Bettini to select a more aggressive team, packed with fast finishers like Viviani.
“Bennati hasn’t offered any guarantees [of his ability to win] yet and he’s never really won long races or proved his ability. I’m against trying to control the race. Of course everything could change on the last two laps and Bennati could have a chance but I’d select Viviani, Modolo, Oss, Visconti, Ponzi and Gatto, with the idea of them getting into the breaks,” Cipollini told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Viviani showed how strong and fast he is, especially during his second win. He impressed me. However it’s also early to say he’s a good alternative to Bennati. On the slightly rising finish in Copenhagen, it's vital how the sprint is led-out. A lead-out train has to keep the speed high even as the road rises, otherwise the other riders will come over the top of you. In that sense, Viviani ahead of Bennati could be decisive.”
Moser, Fondriest and Bugno also have their say
Other former Italian world champions are also not convinced that the Italian team can control the race. Francesco Moser, world champion in San Cristobal, Venezuela in 1977, believes a more aggressive tactic will be needed on September 25.
“If we had a rider like Cipollini as team leader then it could be worth trying to control the race but our current riders don’t give that kind of guarantee,” Moser said. “We’ve got to come up with a different strategy, go on the attack and break things up. Otherwise we’ll lose. I’d go for Oss, Viviani, Ponzi and perhaps even Guardini. Bennati could wait for the sprint but then he’s got to come up with the goods.”
Maurizio Fondriest, world champion in Renaix, Belgium in 1988, said Italy needs two sprinters to work together.
“The riders' legs are more important than the team in Copenhagen. In the final 500 metres it won’t be easy to lead-out the sprint and so I’d get two sprinters to do it, perhaps Bennati and one other. Modolo has shown he’s a bit better than Viviani over a longer distance. Whatever happens, I’d avoid a controlled race: we need riders in every break.”
Gianni Bugno, world champion in 1991 and 1992, is confident in both Bennati and Viviani.
“If Bennati proves he’s going well, then the team has to be built around him. But Viviani is good and worth investing in. They can also ride together. I’m happy to trust Bettini and whatever choice he eventually makes,” he said.
Nations have to name the riders selected for the Elite men’s road race no later than eight days before the event.