Cecchini: Others are stronger but Italy is smarter

Elena Cecchini believes that it is a case of mind over matter for the Italian team ahead of this weekend's elite women's road race at the World Championships. Cecchini says that despite having two-time former world champion Giorgia Bronzini in the line-up along with several other sprinters, Italy is not in the top rung of favourites and will have to rely on their tactics to get the upper-hand.

"We have a chance at a medal, but there are some other countries that are very strong. I think that Holland and Australia are the strongest and we are competing with them but I think that we are smarter," she told Cyclingnews.

"I think that I can have a good role but if it is a bunch sprint then, of course, I will support my sprinters. We have many sprinters; we have Giorgia, [Barbara] Guarischi and [Marta] Bastianelli so you know, with this weather we also have to see how the girls will feel on the last lap. They will have to be really honest and tell each other how they feel, but I think that we have a good chance."

Cecchini spoke to Cyclingnews after finishing 15th in the individual time trial, the first time she had competed in the discipline in Italian colours. It is the second time that she has had an opportunity to race the twisting circuit on The Pearl, added to the recon she and the rest of the Italian team undertook on Thursday morning. There will be a short lead-up to the circuit with the women's peloton beginning at the Qatar Foundation on the western outskirts of the city, but the bulk of the action will take place on the 15.2km finishing circuit.

It will be a fast one, a hot one and something very different from the other Worlds," she explained. "It might break up if the strong teams want it because there are a lot of corners so it will be easy to do some pulls but I think that it will be a bunch sprint because everyone is thinking that it will be a sprint race. When your mentality is like this, then you never believe 100 per cent in a breakaway. I think that it will be a bunch sprint. We will see if there will be some good lead-outs or not."

Due to racing in the team time trial last Sunday, Cecchini has been in Qatar for almost two weeks. It has given her plenty of time to acclimatise to the conditions but the heat is still draining, and she says that plenty of rest and relaxation in the build-up is key to make sure you don't burn out during the race.

"I think that you never get used to this heat," Cecchini said. "You have to really pay attention to hydration and to be really rested before the day because you will need a lot of energy. Sunday after the TTT, I had a headache, and I felt really bad, so I think that it will be a painful race."

Whatever happens, Cecchini will leave the World Championships with a medal in her luggage. She claimed her first-ever World Championships medal on the road [she won silver as a junior on the track] with silver in the team time trial with her Canyon-SRAM squad. The team missed out by 14 seconds to Boels Dolmans after winning the competition four times in their previous incarnations.

"It's my first medal at the Worlds in the elite category so I'm really happy," she said. "I can't hide that we tried to go for gold because that's what the girls were used to but Boels were unbeatable this year. I think with some hard work, and if we keep on believing in this TTT, then we can have a chance."

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