Bettini defends Italian team despite poor result in Valkenburg

Paolo Bettini has his defended the performance of the Italian team at the world championships and insisted that he is ready to develop a four-year project to help Italian's cycling improve in road races and time trials.

Bettini won the world title as a rider in 2006 and 2007 and won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, yet in three years as national coach, no Italian has managed to finish on the podium on the elite men's road race. Oscar Gatto was Italy's best rider in Valkenburg, finishing 13th behind Philippe Gilbert after ailing to follow the Belgian when he attacked on the Cauberg.

"We're missing a finisher like Gilbert. In Italy the only real classics riders are Pozzato, Ballan and Gasparotto. But I couldn't select them. We've got to work with the young riders in future and believe in them," Bettini told Gazzetta dello Sport, reviewing the Italian performance.

Six of the nine riders in the Italian team had never been part of the professional squad for the world championships before Valkenburg. Bettini was force to select a swath of younger riders after the Italian cycling federation adopted a rule forbidding any riders under investigation for doping from the national squad.

Vincenzo Nibali was the designated team leader of the Italian team, with Gatto and 23 year-old Moreno Moser given key roles. Nibali lead the race on the final time up the Cauberg but was unable to respond to Gilbert's blistering attack. Gatto suffered a nasty cut on his knee in a crash 80km from the finish but was not well positioned before the Cauberg.

"We did everything right until two laps to go and even rode really well on the descent before the Cauberg but then we shouldn't have been on the front on the climb," Bettini said.

"We should have kept Nibali well placed but he shouldn't have attacked before Gilbert did. Gatto should have been on Gilbert's wheel so that he could have replied to his attack. But he was 20th going into the Cauberg and was seventh over the top of the climb. If we calculate that every bike is two metres long…."

Four more years

Critics in Italy have suggested Bettini was far better as a rider than he is as a coach. However, he seems to enjoy the role and wants to be in charge for the next four years and especially in 2013 when his home region of Tuscany will host the world championships.

"I get on with the riders. I like working with them and I don't want to leave them I could have an easy life but this is my world," Bettini said.

"I'm going to have a break but before I do I'll sit down and write my report. I want to help the Federation and not only the professional part of Italian cycling. I've got a project in mind for the next four years. We've got to work together on the structure, use of the riders and relationships with the teams. BMC finished second in the team time trial title and three of the six riders were Italian (Quinziato, Ballan and Pinotti). For their team time trialing is like a religion. We've got to work on it too to do it right. We've got to work together. I'm keen to do it."

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