Favorite nation rode aggressively, but defeated in Mendrisio
During the evening after the worlds road race, Italian team coach Franco Ballerini bemoaned rival nations' reluctance to collaborate with the Italian Azzurri as his riders failed to extend their World Championship winning streak to four years.
As expected, Damiano Cunego was the best Italian performer, finishing eighth, but the rest of the Italian team fell apart on the final lap as Cadel Evans (Australia) escaped to victory
"I don't have a great view of everything that's happening from the team car, but I don't think we rode that badly," Ballerini said to a scrum of reporters at Lampre team bus doubling as the Italian team headquarters this week. "It's difficult when you're the favourites and the marking is so tight."
Italy had been prominent early in the race, placing Giovanni Visconti, defending champion Alessandro Ballan, Luca Paolini and Michele Scarponi in a large break whose remnants were swept up as the main group attacked the last lap.
Ballerini swept aside any suggestion that the Italians had committed too early.
"We put four men into that break to try to force some other teams into action. Unfortunately everyone just watched us. What can you do when the others don't want to ride? Nothing," he lamented.
On Sunday night, the hysterical blame-game which invariably follows Italian defeats at worlds had already begun. Some pundits pointed the finger at Filippo Pozzato, whose acceleration on the penultimate ascent of the Novezzano climb exhausted him and Cunego's remaining teammates, albeit unintentionally.
Ballerini agreed that Pozzato's surge had put paid to Ivan Basso and even hurt Cunego. He also, though, argued that Fabian Cancellara's attack on the final ascent of the Acqua Fresca climb was the one that had caused most damage.
"It was incredible what Cancellara did there," Ballerini said. "[Alejandro] Valverde [(Spain)] was in crisis there, and I think Cancellara really hurt Damiano as well. We have to applaud Cadel Evans because, not only did he hang on, he went away and won on his own. Cancellara was maybe the strongest rider in the race but Evans was definitely a deserved winner.
"I maintain that we rode well," Ballerini said finally. "Unfortunately, sometimes, the result doesn't reflect what's gone into it."
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