In the last week of the Tour de France, an Italian delegation visited the site of the upcoming World Road Cycling Championships in Salzburg, Austria. Paolo Bettini (Quickstep) and Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) both made four laps of the course which will see, on September 24, the World elite peloton battling it out for the supreme title. Italian coach Franco Ballerini joined them.
After the ride, three-time World Cup winner Bettini said, "This is a route for me! Similar to the championships in Zürich," - which 'Il Grillo' won last year. "The route is very nervous because in some places the downhills are very narrow," he continued. "You have to stay in the Top 20 right from the start in order to have any hope."
Last year's ProTour winner Danilo Di Luca had a similar view, and was sure that riders like Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov and Michael Boogerd will be up front. "The route is too difficult for Tom Boonen; even for a rider like the Austrian Bernhard Eisel. I think that Totschnig has better chances on this route," said Di Luca.
National trainer Franco Ballerini, himself a successful former pro and two times winner of Paris-Roubaix, was hoping for the same situation as in 1982. "Italy was the World Champion in football and soon after, Giuseppe Saronni became cycling World Champion in Goodwood," he said. "Why shouldn’t it happen again this year? We’ve got the football World Cup! We will do our best to put our stamp on this race. The route is difficult and we only have nine riders starting, but we will try everything to have one of us up front in the end. We want the World Championship title, it doesn't matter which rider gets it."
Last year's mistake in Madrid, where the Italians had set all their hopes on Alessandro Petacchi, is not going to be repeated this year according to the coach. "We have Paolo Bettini, Danilo Di Luca and many other good riders. The final pool won’t be announced until the first week in September," he added.
The Squadra Azzurra looks to be very motivated for the Cycling World Championships in Austria. "We are friends and will sit in the same boat," Bettini said. The 'killer' Di Luca also wanted Salzburg to be a success: "Before the start of the season, I had two objectives - the Giro d’Italia and the World Championships in Salzburg. The Giro didn’t go to plan, so I’m hoping for success in Salzburg."