Italy is hoping the strength in depth and the unity of their men’s and women’s squad can defeat stronger and bigger-name favourites for this weekend’s road races at the UCI Road World Championships in Flanders, Belgium.
Elisa Longo Borghini and Marta Bastianelli lead the women’s team for Saturday’s 157.7km race, with Elisa Balsamo a further option for a sprint finish. New European Champion Sonny Colbrelli and Matteo Trentin lead the men’s team for Sunday’s 268.3km race.
The men’s Under-23 team is built around Bardiani-CSF professional Filippo Zana, who finished third in the Tour de L’Avenir. Italy does not select Under-23 riders from WorldTour teams.
New Italian Federation president Cordiano Dagnoni presented the road teams in Milan, with the outgoing men’s national coach Davide Cassani hoping to sign off with a rainbow jersey after eight years of disappointment.
Filippo Ganna took back-to-back world titles in the time trial and Italy has won four consecutive European titles, while Trentin finished second to Mads Pedersen in Yorkshire in 2019. However, Alessandro Ballan was the last men’s road race world champion in Varese in 2008.
Cassani selected Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), Trentin and Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation), Gianni Moscon and Salvatore Puccio (Ineos Grenadiers), Andrea Bagioli and Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka NextHash), opting for a mix of hard working domestiques and other options like Ulissi and Nizzolo.
Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) is the non-travelling reserve, with Cassani deciding the final eight on Friday morning.
“Colbrelli and Trentin are the leaders, while Giacomo Nizzolo deserves a place too. We’ve spoken at length and he knows his role,” Cassani said.
Nizzolo will play a waiting and tactical game, giving Italy an option if the attacks cancel each other out on the short climbs and technical roads of East Flanders.
Women’s national coach Dino Savoldi insisted Italy has several options as they try to take on the mighty Netherlands team and other major rivals in Flanders. Giorgia Bronzini was the last woman to win the world title of Italy in 2011 when she completed a rare double.
Savoldi has selected Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Bastianelli (Alé BTC Ljubljana), Balsamo (Valcar Travel&Service), Vittoria Guazzini (Valcar Travel&Service), Elena Cecchini (Team SD Worx), Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling), and Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope). Barbara Guarischi (Movistar) is the reserve.
“The Netherlands are the favourites like always and there’s always Belgium’s Lotte Kopecky. We’ll have several options, including Elisa Balsamo for a sprint finish,” Savoldi said.
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