Italians report from Beijing

A select Italian squad took its first glimpse of the 2008 Olympic parcours when it rode in Beijing yesterday, August 16, under the guidance of Franco Ballerini and Sandro Callari. Fabio Baldato, Gabriele Bosisio, Enrico Gasparotto, Raffaele Ferrara, Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Sabatini are in China to take part in the Good Luck Beijing Road events (August 18 - 19) and preview the Olympic Road Race and Time trial course to report back to the eventual Squadra Azzurra sent to next year's Games.

The team battled traffic to find the area, 70 kilometres from Beijing, where the road race will be contested in the shadows of the Great Wall. The parcours is composed of a loop of 23.8 kilometres with the climbs concentrated in the first part, while the middle there is a long, non-technical descent that utilizes part of a highway that leads to the final kilometres. The last kilometre contains a difficult, sharp rise.

"The first impression is that the there are difficult sections, in which tomorrow we will be able to make the selection in the first loop," commented Ballerini, directeur sportif of the road team. Saturday's road race will be 174 kilometres. "We will take this into consideration tomorrow but also for the Olympics next year that will have a greater number of circuits and to be determined by the difficulties of the route."

"Two circuits of this route will be difficult," said Callari, directeur sportif for the time trial. Sunday's time trial will only contain one loop, 23.8 kilometres. "When confronted during the Olympics it [the distance of two loops] could snap the spirit of the time trial that which, according to me, should be fundamentally a test of speed. Anyhow, the best indications we will have in the race."

The riders noted the presence of the strong winds that prevail in the monumental zone and that the direction could render the parcours even more selective. After the reconnaissance the Squadra Azzurra returned to Beijing, which is currently engulfed in humidity and smog, additional elements that will have to be confronted by the cyclists taking part in this weekend's race and next year's Olympics.

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