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The comeback!

Italy, March 24, 2005

Hello Cyclingnews friends!

Did you see Milano-Sanremo?! I told you to have patience and the "real" Paolo would return. Finally last Saturday I was back where I belong. I'm still not 100%, not even 80% yet, but even so, at Milano-Sanremo I managed to do some good things. Our Quick.Step-Ennergetic team decided that I would attack before the Poggio to try and get away and put pressure on the other teams to catch me. If I had reached the foot of the Poggio with more than 0'30, I would have pushed really hard. Otherwise I would wait for Tom Boonen and help him in the sprint. Unfortunately when I made move, I had Kashechkin on my wheel and my former teammate wasn't much help.

If we had been just a little more active and he had worked harder, we might have gotten a lot more time on the chasers. But the sprinters teams got organized behind and when we hit the base of the Poggio, we only had 0'12 advantage. Not enough. So I backed off and went to work to help Boonen. On the Poggio climb, I was right there with him and when we hit the final kilometre I was in the lead going hard, with everyone lined out behind me as I continued to up the pace.

With 400m to go I saw Petacchi was on my wheel, with Tom Boonen just behind him and I thought that I was leaving Tom out in the wind way too early, with the result of a long sprint that wouldn't give Tom much chance to win. So a little later with 300m to go, I swerved left and Peta followed me. Then the tempo slowed and there were a lot of riders coming left.

Suddenly Petacchi made a hard jump and like a champagne cork, he just popped off the front! Alessandro went on to win while Tom had a moment of indecision and got boxed in and couldn't really sprint. Otherwise, I'm sure Boonen would have been at least in the top three at Sanremo.

In any case, the best rider on the day won the race. On the climbs of the Cipressa and Poggio, I looked carefully at Petacchi's face to see how much he was hurting but he was barely breathing hard! I'm really happy about the way the race went for me even if we didn't win. I made a good attack in the finale and was still there to help Tom in the sprint after almost 300 kilometres of racing hard. It's a sign that all the work I did at Tirreno-Adriatico is paying off now. Currently I'm riding in the Coppi Bartali to improve my form further and then it's Giro delle Fiandre. Look for me there, my friends!


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He's from California, down near the beach, but this guy's no surfer dude. Paolo Bettini is from La California, near Cecina on the Tuscan coast in Italy. The Quick.Step-Davitamon rider had a fantastic 2004 season, winning his third consecutive World Cup and the Olympic Road Race, finishing the World Rankings as number two. Bettini is back on Cyclingnews in 2005 with his exclusive English-language diary.