Flanders and Roubaix for Il Grillo
Paolo Bettini is starting his 2007 season close to home, on the roads of southern Italy, near Livorno. His team, Quick-Step has come together for one week to train and use their new bikes from Specialized. Gregor Brown reports from their training camp in Marina di Bibbona.
Mike Sinyard, president of Specialized bicycles, introduced Bettini to the gathered press, "It is a honour to be working with them, and Mister Bettini, who has a great history in racing. It is very exciting to work with the best team in the world."
Sinyard was referring to the current world champion, who just returned from vacation after a fall that included winning the Worlds, Giro di Lombardia and competing two six day races. Bettini, along with Tom Boonen, form the core of the Belgium-based team that looks stronger than ever.
"The six day races were truly a beautiful experience," noted Bettini of his debut on the track this fall. "They are no joke, they are really tough races to do. I would like to try them again in the future. It is something you have to specialise in. Over the next two years there is still a lot I want to accomplish [on the road], so there is not much time to do specific work on the track. Two years is not enough to learn all there is to learn in this field."
Bettini had come to the track after accomplishing one of his career goals; winning the world championship. It had set a relaxed tone for his winter and starting the new 2007 season. "It was strange how the last worlds ended," he reflected. "I never had thought it would end in that way but this is cycling. Even McEwen was there in the end. Of course I have to give a lot to thanks to the Spaniards."
The worlds underlined Bettini's one-day strength and in 2007 he wants to add to his palmarès by winning the Tour of Flanders. "I would prefer Flanders above a third Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I am satisfied, above all, for the worlds, and before that it was the Olympics. Both of those races were huge satisfactions. There are still more races but I am happy with what I have achieved.
"If I am able to race Roubaix [after Flanders - ed.], with the [worlds] jersey that I have, even without the goal of winning, then I would like to try. Just to get the experience and help the team."
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