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Paolo Bettini wins from Zabel and Valverde
Paolo Bettini (Italy) has finally won the race he has come so close to winning in the past: the...
Paolo Bettini (Italy) has finally won the race he has come so close to winning in the past: the world championship. The Italian, who clearly had excellent form, came around Erik Zabel (Germany) in the last 50m to win by half a wheel. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) finished third after being led out by his teammate Samuel Sanchez with 500m to go, creating a small gap in the bunch that ruined the chances of the other sprinters.
The race was marked by numerous breakaways, and after 44 km, a group formed with Tyler Farrar (USA): Nicolas Roche (Ireland), Matteo Tosatto and Rinaldo Nocentini (Italy), Jurgen Van Goolen (Belgium), Bram De Groot (Netherlands), Daniel Andonov Petrov (Bulgaria), Luis Perez Rodriguez (Spain), Thomas Voeckler (France), Stephan Schreck (Germany) and Aliaksandr Kychinski (Belarus). They caught the then lone leader Alex Cano (Colombia) and proceeded to ride out to a 16 minute advantage. The work of the Austrians and the Dutch reduced the gap sufficiently, and a group of 14 closed the gap to the leaders with three laps to go.
The group was too big to work, and the peloton reformed with two to go. Bettini was strong both times up the final climb in the last two laps, first of all getting a gap with Fabian Wegmann, and on the last lap going clear on his own and joined by Kroon, Boogerd (Netherlands), Millar (Great Britain), Wegmann (Germany) and Vinokourov (Kazakhstan). But it all came back together again on the descent. With 500m to go, a gap opened up at the front of the bunch, and Sanchez, Valverde, Zabel and Bettini were able to fight out the sprint among themselves. Valverde went first, then Zabel, but Bettini was able to beat them all with a well timed finishing burst.