Italian Luca Paolini (Acqua & Sapone) won the Coppa Bernocchi yesterday in Legnano, Italy. The win came in front of national director Franco Ballerini, 25 days before he selects the nine-man World Championships team.
Paolini formed part of an escape group that went free on the fourth of five times up the Morazzone climb. He sprinted ahead of Danilo Hondo (PSK Whirlpool), Enrico Gasparotto (Lampre-NGC) and last year's winner, Steve Cummings (Barloworld), 50 kilometres later.
"Now I am thinking of going to race Melinda to help Stefano Garzelli, then Veneto and Romagna for me," Paolini told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
He wants to take his third win of the season, adding to a stage in Settimana Lombarda and the Coppa Bernocchi. He also wants to prove to Ballerini his worth for the World Championships, September 27 in Mendrisio, Switzerland.
"He's there, he already knows it," Ballerini said. "I never selected him on the national team just because he was Paolo Bettini's friend or my close friend."
Paolini has raced on the Italian national team at the World Championships five times. He finished third in 2004 behind Spain's Oscar Freire.
Ballerini has more freedom in selecting the national team this year with the absence of Paolo Bettini, Davide Rebellin and Danilo Di Luca. Defending champion Alessandro Ballan is the only rider secured of a position in the team. Ivan Basso, Damiano Cunego and Stefano Garzelli are possible leaders.
"I was able to take some good indicators in the last three races," said Ballerini. "I hope to have some confirmations in the next races, but now it is still open."
Italy has won the World Championships for the last three years: Paolo Bettini in 2006 and 2007, and Ballan in 2008. A national team has never won the race in four consecutive years.
Mendrisio's course will be one of the hardest since 2003 in Hamilton, Canada. The circuit has two climbs, Acqua Fresca and Novazzano, in a short 13.8-kilometre circuit repeated 19 times.
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