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Bettini to retire following Worlds

World Champion Paolo Bettini

World Champion Paolo Bettini (Image credit: Riccardo Scanferla)

By Gregor Brown in Varese, Italy

Italian Paolo Bettini will retire after he races for his third World Championship title on Sunday. The 34 year-old will end a 12-year career that includes wins at Milano-Sanremo, the Tour de France and the Olympics.

"In these last months – for the last four years – I have thought a lot and there has been a lot going on up until this last week and the World Championships – my race. I decided to close my career with serenity. Sunday will be the last time I attach a race number on my back and it will be the number one," Bettini said Saturday evening in Varese.

Bettini had a fall out with his current team Quick Step earlier this month over contract negotiations. He considered racing another year but did not find a team that would meet his needs.

"I want to say thanks to everyone. Giancarlo Ferretti was the first directeur that believed in me, the sponsors – Mapei and Quick Step."

Bettini, from La California, Livorno, started his career with MG-Technogym in 1997. He rose to fame in 2000 with Team Mapei-Quickstep with his win in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and a stage win in the Tour de France. He gained another win in Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2002 on his way to winning his first of three World Cup titles. His palmarès also include 2003 Milano-Sanremo, Clásica San Sebastián, the 2005 and 2006 Giro di Lombardia and two Italian Championships.

He will vie for a history-making third straight win in the World Championships road race in his last race on Sunday. "To win tomorrow will mean that I would write a story in cycling."

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