"For the Belgians Flanders is everything, a little like Sanremo for us," said Italian Luca Paolini, referring to this Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. Yesterday, the 30 year-old rider from Lombardy won Three Days of De Panne stage 1 and took the overall leader's jersey as a consequence but he is thinking ahead.
Paolini has raced as a teammate the two favourites for De Ronde, Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini of Quick-Step. "They are big obstacles that can control the course," he continued to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "The Belgians have the advantage of knowing every metre of these roads, every block of pavé, but... Their disadvantage is that they are under a tremendous amount of pressure. Flanders to them is a little like Sanremo for us [Italians]."
The Liquigas rider, owner of a Ducati 999, is passionate for motorcycles, and he dedicated his 14th pro win to his occasional training partner, MotoGP pilot Roberto Locatelli. "This one goes to my friend Roberto," he continued of the pilot who crashed while training in Spain. "I hope he has a fast recovery.
"When I need to 'unload' I go on a training ride with him on the roads of Brianza. He is a good guy and he is very nice to have for company."
Meanwhile, Paolini's pick for the win in Ronde, Bettini, spent yesterday training. The World Champion trained for three hours on home roads and is planning on returning to Belgium this Friday.