Ballerini searches for best nine riders for Italian team

Italian national director Franco Ballerini

Italian national director Franco Ballerini (Image credit: Sirotti)

Franco Ballerini is busy following the Trittico Lombardo to help him make his selection for the Italian World Championship team. Team Italy can bring nine riders, the same as the United States and Spain, but more than rivals France and The Netherlands.

"Luxembourg has nine, but they don't have riders to fill all the positions," he said. "Still, they have two of our most dangerous rivals, the Schleck brothers [Fränk and Andy]."

The International Cycling Union (UCI) confirmed this week the number of riders allowed for each nation at the World Championships, September 27 in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Italy is one of 10 nations to have nine riders, but some historically powerful nations can only bring six due to their rankings as of August 15.

Ballerini is following the progress of the Italian riders this week at the Trittico Lombardo. It's a series of three races that includes the Tre Valli Varesine (August 18), Coppa Agostoni (19) and Coppa Bernocchi (20).

Mauro Santambrogio won the Tre Valli Varesine yesterday from a 12-rider escape group. He has yet to participate in the Worlds, but Ballerini may consider him as a helper thanks to his win.

"Mauro went really well in the Tour of Portugal and I expected him to go well here," Ballerini said yesterday. "From what he showed in Portugal he deserved the win."

Giovanni Visconti won the Coppa Agostoni today from a seven-man sprint. "I have talked a few times with Franco and I knew that I needed some results," said Visconti. "I hope today helps for my selection."

Defending champion Alessandro Ballan, Damiano Cunego, Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali should be leaders within the team. Marzio Bruseghin, Gabriele Bosisio and Matteo Tosatto are likely helpers. Stefano Garzelli, Luca Paolini and Italian Champion Filippo Pozzato could fill the other spots.

"Pozzato is a question mark, but there are still races where he can show something. He is a great talent who knows how to work, but some times he does things so-so."

Ballerini will make his final selection of nine riders and two reserves September 14. This year's course will be one of the hardest since 2003 in Hamilton, Canada.

Italy has won the World Championships for the last three years (Paolo Bettini twice and Ballan last year), but never has a country won the race four consecutive years.

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