By Gregor Brown in Varese
After guiding his Italian warriors to the world championship win in Varese, Franco Ballerini told Cyclingnews that his charge Alessandro Ballan capitalised on the team's work and won the battle for the rainbow jersey.
"We kept going forward with our strategy and we also mixed the cards. It worked out great in the end. If you want to fight a war you've got to have warriors, who know how to fight a war," said Ballerini following Ballan's triumph.
Italy placed three of its men in the penultimate-lap move of the 260km race. Those riders - Ballan, Damiano Cunego and Davide Rebellin - waged the final battle as defending champion Paolo Bettini followed in a group one minute back.
The team started the race with Bettini as captain after he had announced his retirement the night before. Il grillo was eager to try for a record three consecutive wins in what would have been a fairytale ending to a glittering career.
"When you make a team, there is never a single leader, although we had a charismatic leader," Ballerini said. He downplayed the team had its tactics focused on Bettini, and praised the out-going champion as an example. "I hope in the future we will be able to have [another] one like him. His actions were a great lesson for the national team going forward."
Ballan delivered his killer attack 3km from the line, heading into Varese's centre. Rebellin and Cunego marked Denmark's Chris Anker Sørensen, who pulled for teammate Matti Breschel as Cunego was easily able to clear his rivals in the 12-man group for silver. Breschel took bronze while Rebellin fourth.
"I am so happy for Alessandro and for Damiano. Ballan did something great due to the great work of the team," said Ballerini, before paying tribute to outgoing champion Bettini. "Therefore Paolo decided to stay back and let the others win today. He is a leader who is not egotistical."