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Gallery: Italian team trains ahead of the Worlds

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The Italian national team out training

The Italian national team out training
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Vanotti (Astana)

Alessandro Vanotti (Astana)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Azzurri stop for a short coffee break during their training ride

The Azzurri stop for a short coffee break during their training ride
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Filippo Pozzato (Lampre - Merida) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Filippo Pozzato (Lampre - Merida) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini is expected to lead Italy to glory on Sunday

Paolo Bettini is expected to lead Italy to glory on Sunday
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Two-time world champion Paolo Bettini calls the shots

Two-time world champion Paolo Bettini calls the shots
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Two-time world champion Paolo Bettini calls the shots

Two-time world champion Paolo Bettini calls the shots
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) leads his team through a training ride

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) leads his team through a training ride
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Diego Ulissi (Lampre - Merida) will form an important part of Nibali's challenge

Diego Ulissi (Lampre - Merida) will form an important part of Nibali's challenge
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) leads the line in training

Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) leads the line in training
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) has recovered from his crash in the Tour of Britain

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) has recovered from his crash in the Tour of Britain
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini will be looking to manage Italian expectations

Paolo Bettini will be looking to manage Italian expectations
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Dalia Muccioli and Paolo Bettini share a joke

Dalia Muccioli and Paolo Bettini share a joke
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Giovanni Visconti is all smiles but the pressure is on ahead of Sunday's race

Giovanni Visconti is all smiles but the pressure is on ahead of Sunday's race
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Can Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) deliver on home soil

Can Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) deliver on home soil
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini joins his riders for a team ride

Paolo Bettini joins his riders for a team ride
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Filippo Pozzato and Michele Scarponi discuss their up coming Worlds challenge

Filippo Pozzato and Michele Scarponi discuss their up coming Worlds challenge
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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If the shoe fits: Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha)

If the shoe fits: Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Trade teammates Filippo Pozzato and Michele Scarponi

Trade teammates Filippo Pozzato and Michele Scarponi
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Italian team prepare for a training ride

The Italian team prepare for a training ride
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Racing on home roads after disappointing outings in Copenhagen and Valkenburg, expectations are high for the Italian team in the elite men’s road race at the world championships in Florence this weekend.

Paolo Bettini’s team is based in Montecatini Terme in the build-up to the big day, where a sizeable home media presence is poring over every detail of the squadra azzurra’s preparations for the big day, not least the identity of the nine starters on Sunday.

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) was forced to abandon the Tour of Britain due to an early crash, but the reports emanating from the camp suggest that the Sicilian has done enough to convince Bettini of his fitness to start on Sunday.

The Italian team will be led by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), while the experienced Luca Paolini (Katusha) looks set to fulfil his familiar role of regista, or road captain. A bronze medallist in Verona in 2004 (and a silver medallist in the under-23 race in the same city five years previously) Paolini is set to line up in his tenth Worlds road race.

“I think our prospects are good,” Paolini told Gazzetta dello Sport. “We don’t just have one string to our bow. Nibali has some fast men in the team with him, and they’re necessary because you go up to Fiesole at 30-35kph and it’s not guaranteed that the climb will make the difference.”

The key tactic for Italy, Paolini believes, will be to place fast finishers in the early breakaways so as to force other teams to lead the chase behind.

“If we place some fast men in there, maybe for once, we won’t have the weight of the race,” Paolini said. “The break won’t easy to bring back, either. On this course, you’d use up three or four riders bringing it back. The team would be used up, so we have to avoid that.”

On Monday, the Italian team trained for two and half hours, albeit in relaxed circumstances. Led by Bettini himself, the sgambata, or loosener, brought the Italians to Lucca and back, and included a stop at the gelateria of former Saeco rider Paolo Fornaciari.

Never outdone with news from the Italian camp, Gazzetta dello Sport also revealed the rooming arrangements in Montecatini Terme. Time triallists Adriano Malori and Marco Pinotti are sharing a room, as are Astana teammates Nibali and Alessandro Vanotti. Paolini is rooming with his close friend Filippo Pozzato, Simone Ponzi with Ivan Santaromita, and Visconti is sharing with Giampaolo Caruso.

Diego Ulissi, Michele Scarponi and Rinaldo Nocentini have been forced to squeeze into a triple room, but this, Gazzetta assures us, is “the most fun room at the Worlds.”