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Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC)
Ballerini makes final selection for nine-man Italian team
Italy's Damiano Cunego has been watching the weather forecasts closely for the World Championships on Sunday in Mendrisio, Switzerland. The forecast predicts a chance of rain for Sunday and a high of 23 degrees Celsius. Rain could force an early decision on the climbing intensive course.
"The worlds course is very hard this year. If there is good weather it will be hard. If it rains it will be even worse," said Cunego.
It rained on Friday night, and the women's race started on a wet circuit on Saturday morning. Four riders crashed in the beginning of the race, which Italy's Tatiana Guderzo eventually won.
Cunego and Italian national team director Franco Ballerini gave their thoughts yesterday at a team press conference in Gazzada, Italy. Ballerini complained about the race organiser's inability to close the course completely yesterday for training. He also named Italy's final nine-man team.
Damiano Cunego, Ivan Basso, Alessandro Ballan, Filippo Pozzato, Stefano Garzelli, Luca Paolini, Michele Scarponi, Giovanni Visconti and Marzio Bruseghin will represent Italy. Ballerini said Matteo Tosatto and Mauro Santambrogio, who Ballerini had as reserves, would sit out.
"It was a difficult decision," said Ballerini. "For this course, Bruseghin is more convincing [than Tosatto]. In the GP Prato, he really showed me that he was in top condition."
Ballerini said his nine-man Italian team will be one of the strongest along with teams from Spain and Australia.
"The other teams can cause problems, but not as much as us. It will be a hard course for any team to control."
Ballerini said Cunego showed great condition at the Vuelta a España with his two stage wins and will lead the team. But, Ballerini will be attentive to the race's development and shift his plan accordingly.
"We have a strong option with Damiano, but we have to react to any breaks. I remember Lugano in 1996. There, an escape went away with big names, including eventual winner Johan Museeuw."
This year's 13.8km circuit in Mendrisio features two climbs, the Acqua Fresca and Novazzano. The men will do 19 laps for 262.2 kilometres.
Italy won the last three editions of the road race with Ballan (2008) and Paolo Bettini (2007 and 2006). No country has ever won the road race for four consecutive years.
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