Paolo Bettini has been officially presented as manager of the Italian national team at a press conference in Rome.
Bettini sounded what he hopes to be the keynote of his tenure, namely continuity with the late Franco Ballerini’s hugely successful spell as commissario tecnico. The influentual position had remained vacant since Ballerini’s death in a rallying accident in early February.
“I want to follow in Franco’s footsteps”, said an emotional Bettini. “I know the peloton very well because I have only recently retired, and I know that I will have to count very much on the same riders who, along with Ballerini, helped me to win”.
Bettini, a close personal friend of Ballerini, won two rainbow jerseys and an Olympic gold medal under the management of his fellow Tuscan, and is aware of the weight of his legacy. “I was a great athlete, but I don’t know if I will succeed in being a great manager. Certainly I will give everything to achieve great results,” he said.
The double world champion has signed an initial one-year contract with the Italian Federation, with an agreement to continue in the role until the 2012 London Olympics, depending on results.
His first test will come at the World Championships in early October, and one former occupant of the legendary hot seat of Italian cycling is convinced of Bettini’s credentials. Alfredo Martini, brought six rainbow jerseys south of the Alps during his reign as manager, and he offered this rather poetic appraisal of the new man in command.
“He is a man who comes from the sea, and has gone from being a sailor to an admiral. Bettini will be a great admiral, everybody wants him and he is lacking nothing. The only thing he is missing is Bettini the rider, that Franco Ballerini had.”