Bettini king of Italian offensive

Gli azzurri

Gli azzurri (Image credit: Sirotti)

Ever since Mario Cipollini sprinted into the rainbow jersey in Zolder in 2002, Italy has been searching for a new world champion coming out of its ranks. But in the last two editions of the event, hosted in Madrid and Verona, the squadra azzurra failed to click thanks to a lack of coherent teamwork. Can they do it in Salzburg? Hedwig Kröner reports.

This time in sunny Austria, team coach Franco Ballerini promised it would be different. "We have the perfect team for this kind of parcours, with one leader (Bettini), one possible second leader (Di Luca) and three other strong men (Pozzato, Rebellin and Paolini), as well as the rest of the team, doing everything in their power to make it work." Sounds familiar?

But actually, the strategy of the Italian squad is understandable: After having assessed the parcours, which was first rated very difficult, Ballerini has now adopted a slightly different approach: to make life as hard as possible for the sprinters in order to eliminate the fast men before the finishing straight. "This type of parcours will only be really selective if it is truly raced hard," said Ballerini, implying that there is a possibility of the likes of Boonen, Zabel and McEwen surviving until the finish.

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