In Geelong last year, Cavendish had just David Millar and Jeremy Hunt for company in the British line-up, but thanks to its place in the WorldTour national standings, Great Britain has earned the right to field eight riders this time around.
Bettini had initially dismissed Cavendish’s chances after viewing the Rudersdal circuit earlier in the year, but explained that was before it became apparent that Britain would be allowed almost a full complement of riders.
“Cavendish is coming here with a real team,” Bettini told Cyclingnews in Copenhagen. “When I went to see the course a few times before, I said that Cavendish couldn’t do it, but that was if Britain only had three riders. Now they have eight, so things have changed quite a bit.”
While Philippe Gilbert is the bookmakers’ favourite to triumph on Sunday, Bettini noted that defending champion Thor Hushovd cannot be ruled out of the equation, particularly should the race come down to an uphill sprint finish.
“Gilbert is one of the big favourites, but considering the course, Thor Hushovd could be the dangerman,” Bettini said. “The USA have Farrar and then there’s Australia, who have one of the most complete teams, but I think we’ll be in the mix too.”
So often responsible for dictating the pace at the head of the Worlds peloton in the past, the Italians this year find themselves in the unfamiliar position of not carrying the burden of policing the race.
“Certainly the weight of the race sits on other teams this year, because there are other teams with sprinters who have beaten us,” Bettini said. “This year, for the first time in a number of years, we can sit back and watch – without losing our concentration and always remaining a presence, but leaving the responsibility to other teams.”
On announcing his squad last week, Bettini suggested that he would look to send riders such as Giovanni Visconti on the offensive in order to whittle down the main peloton, and have Daniel Oss lead out Daniele Bennati in the event of a sprint finish. As the big day draws closer, however, Bettini was a little more reticent to talk tactics.
“We have a lot of riders to play and we’ll be looking to play them all in the best way possible,” he said coyly. “We have a very tight group, a united group.”
While Bettini has viewed the circuit several times throughout the season, this week was the first time he saw it as it will be laid out on Sunday, and he was concerned by the placement of the roadside barriers.
“It’s a very fast course but there are a lot of dangers as the roads aren’t big or wide,” he said. “Unfortunately there is a big danger of crashes because the barriers on the roadside mean you have to ride in the middle of the road, and they’re even more dangerous because they are barriers with legs.
“On a fast route like this one, lots of riders will feel that they can go well and so there will be a lot of stress in the peloton to try and hold positions, and all of this will make the race more stressful.”