Italian sprinting sensation Andrea Guardini is in line to ride the under 23 road race at the world championships in Copenhagen in September. Although he turned professional with Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli at the beginning of the year, Guardini is eligible to compete as his team is not part of the WorldTour.
Although the elite road race is widely tipped to finish in a bunch sprint, Italian national coach Paolo Bettini has ruled out selecting the 22-year-old fast man for the senior team due to its 281km distance. Instead, Guardini looks set to gain experience by leading the under 23 squad over a significantly shorter course.
With nine victories over a host of top-level sprinters to his name already this season, Guardini would line up in Copenhagen as a firm favourite for the rainbow jersey.
“Yes, there is the idea of picking Guardini, even if we know well that a move of that kind could always spark some polemics, because if you win, it’s expected and if you lose, you look bad,” Bettini told Gazzetta dello Sport.
According to Gazzetta, Farnese-Neri manager Luca Scinto first floated the idea of sending Guardini to the under 23 Worlds last winter, but Bettini was nonetheless adamant that the youngster will have to earn his selection over the coming weeks. Guardini is currently riding the Tour of Portugal.
“He has a month to show that he is going really strong,” Bettini said. “What he is won so far is a nice calling card, but it’s not sufficient to get in the national team.”
Both Bettini and Italian federation president Renato Di Rocco defended the potential inclusion of a successful professional rider in the under 23 line-up. Gerald Ciolek captured the under 23 world title in similar circumstances in 2006, fully a year after beating Erik Zabel to win the German national championships, while Di Rocco pointed out that the precedent already existed within the Italian set-up. Damiano Caruso, then of LPR, rode the event in Mendrisio in 2009 at the request of under 23 coach Marino Amadori.
“In the end you have to look at it realistically, and say clearly that the other countries don’t have any problem with doing it,” Bettini said. “I think that if Guardini can be useful to the team, it’s right to pick him given that he is a young rider of interest. Furthermore, it’s not certain that he will be the one to lead the team. But in any case, his experience as a pro could be very important for the amateurs.”