Italy has now failed to win a medal in the last five editions of the Elite men's road race world championships but the rider and national coach left Florence with a sense of pride rather than failure after the Azzurri did everything they could to control the race and set up Vincenzo Nibali.
The 28 year-old Sicilian finished fourth, beaten by Alejandro Valverde (Spain) in the sprint after he lost contact with Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) and then was being unable to go with Rui Costa (Portugal) when he jumped across to the Spaniard and beat him in the sprint. Nibali crashed at speed with two laps to go but got back up to the peloton with a show of strength and some help from the team car. However his injuries affected his race.
Other crashes took out road captain Luca Paolini, while protected sprinter Filippo Pozzato lost contact on the final climb up to Fiesole at the same time as Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) and Peter Sagan (Slovakia).
Italian national coach Paolo Bettini was disappointed to miss out on a medal but was proud of how his riders had dominated and controlled must of the race.
"I'd rather finish fourth than loose the race like Spain did. Vincenzo fought all the way to the end and raced with intelligence. I'm proud that we're back as the best nation in the race," Bettini said.
"I've got no regrets and can only praise all the riders. They fought like lions. We took on the race, as we'd planned. Almost everyone crashed at some point except Pozzato, who had a puncture and changed bikes. We were unlucky that Paolini crashed with Nibali and Scarponi because the finale would have been different if he'd been up there with Vincenzo."
"If Vincenzo hadn't crashed, I'm sure he'd have been up there: either to fight for the win with Rodriguez or he would have dropped him and won alone."
Plans for the future
Italy was riding to honour the late Franco Ballerini's memory. Bettini took over from Ballerini as national coach in 2010 but has so far failed to repeat his success as national coach.
Bettini was close to quitting the prestigious but pressured role in the summer but stayed on for the Tuscany world championships, close to his home. He has often lamented the lack of a serious long term strategy within the Italian Cycling Federation and seems tempted to do other things in cycling.
He refused to immediately say what he intends to do. "First I've got to go home and pick the olives…" he joked to Gazzetta dello Sport.
"We'll see. It's not the right moment to talk about my future. But if things feel right, if there's a real project for the future, then why not? I like working with the riders. It's up to the president of the Federation."
Luca Scinto, Gianni Bugno, Maurizio Fondriest and Max Sciandri have been named as possible replacements. Sciandri seemed set for the job in the spring but Cyclingnews understands he has signed a three-year contract with BMC as a directeur sportif and intends to stay with the US-registered team.