By Jean-François Quénet
As Italian stars like Paolo Bettini are drawing nearer the end of their careers, other racers like Giovanni Visconti are ready to follow in Bettini's footsteps. Visconti is even lucky enough to be tutored by the master himself. Visconti is one of the riders looking forward to Sunday's GP Ouest France-Plouay.
When Quick.Step-Innergetic's Giovanni Visconti returns to Plouay, it's like a pilgrimage. He arrived Friday directly from the Tour of Poitou-Charentes where he skipped the two final stages on the last day in order to save himself for other goals. "I've raced in Plouay twice already in my first two years as a professional with Domina Vacanze and Milram," he said. Visconti finished 55th, riding for Team Milram, in 2006, and 75th, riding for Domina Vacanze, in 2005.
"It's exactly the kind of course that suits me because it's similar to ones where I've been successful as a professional," said an enthusiastic Visconti. "It's got two or three short climbs that make legs hurt as the kilometers pass. Plouay is one of the ProTour races the most adapted to my characteristics. It's a nice place and a spectacular race. When I came here the first time, I'd forgotten that it was the circuit where I had seen Romans Vainsteins become the world champion on TV [in 2000]."
Visconti recalled his experience at another ProTour event earlier this year. "I've been fascinated by Liège-Bastogne-Liège," he said. "I wasn't in good shape, and this race hurt me because I was coming off a glandular fever just two months before. I wasn't able to take part in this race as a contender for the win, but I enjoyed doing everything with Paolo Bettini: going and seeing the course and its crucial points before [the event] and feeling the heat of such a [major] event."
The name of team-mate "Bettini" is a magic word in the mouth of Visconti, who hails from the Tuscan cycling school of Luca Scinto, the road captain of Michele Bartoli and Bettini in their golden years. "They have taken me onto this team to follow the path of Bettini," said the Sicilian who joined Quick.Step-Innergetic this year upon the request of the world champion. "Bettini is a model rider, particularly for the one-day races."
"As a young rider, I've always been compared to Bartoli, but I have the feeling that my career is similar Bettini's who spent the beginning of his career working for Bartoli and learning his job by doing so," said Visconti. "Even if they had differences later on, Bettini learned everything from Bartoli. I also want to learn everything possible, and I have the best maestro for that. Everybody with the intention of coming to the same achievements as Bettini dreams of having him as a teacher."
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