Italian national coach Paolo Bettini has confirmed that the Italian team will ride aggressively in Sunday's world championships road race in the hope of creating a hard and selective race and so favour team leader Vincenzo Nibali or at least make the likes of Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara suffer.
The Italian squad rode the Florence finishing circuit for the first time on Thursday morning. Bettini refused to name his final starting nine until close to Friday's deadline. He movingly remembered the late Franco Ballerini, who was the national coach when Bettini won his two world titles (2006, 2007) and Olympic gold at the 2004 Games in Athens. Ballerini's widow and children attended the press conference to encourage the Italian riders and wish them all the best.
Bettini is expected to go for experience and climbing ability rather youth and speed.
Vincenzo Nibali and Filippo Pozzato are expected to be team leaders, with Diego Ulissi also given protected status after his excellent ride at the Vuelta a Espana. Rinaldo Nocentini, Giampaolo Caruso, Michele Scarponi, Luca Paolini, Giovanni Visconti and Ivan Santaromita will be expected to go in the early breaks and do the heavy lifting and chasing. Simone Ponzi and Alessandro Vanotti likely to be the two reserves who will help with information and tactics from the road side in the absence of race radios.
"A lot's been said about the world championships but now it's time to race," Bettini said in a long and drawn out press conference.
"The circuit is great but also hard. We're up against a lot of rivals but we're playing at home and we're ready. We'll see how the race evolves on Sunday and see what happens during the whole 272km. The circuit is fast - they'll do the Fiesole climb at 30km/h and it'll be very hard when the racing is hard. There's very little time to recover or organise a chase because there are two climbs per lap.
"We'll be riding to win. People have been saying other countries are the favourites and so they'll have to take some responsibility but we're ready to take ours. Rather than chase all day, we want to be chased. We won’t hold back."
Bettini praised Nibali and the rest of the team. Luca Paolini announced this will be his last ever world championships after wearing the azzurra ten times. The experienced Katusha rider will be the Italian road captain and a possible protected sprinter if the race stays together.
"Nibali is developing and growing all the time," said Bettini. "Now he's going to become a father and so he'll mature even more. He's unusual as a rider. He can win Grand Tours but can also blow one-day races apart and win. He's not only a stage race rider like Contador. He can do something on Sunday."
Nibali ready to race in the rain
Nibali said he had recovered from the efforts of the Vuelta a Espana thanks to some quiet time at home and some quality training. He's from Messina in Sicily but is motivated for the Tuscan world championships after spending much of his amateur career in Tuscany teams.
"The circuit is fast but hard too," he said.
"You do the Fiesole climb and there's no time to recover because you quickly hit the Via Salviati climb. It's also one of the longest Worlds we've done for many years and there's 3000m of climb, that's quite a lot.
"It's a long, hard Worlds, so we'll need lots of endurance, so it's difficult to predict how the race will be decided. It's true, I've got to finish alone but my back is covered if I attack because we've got good riders like Visconti, Pozzato, Paolini and Ulissi."
Rain is forecast for Sunday, which could provide Nibali an extra edge.
"I won't be doing a rain dance but I've proved I can give a bit more in the rain. There are a lot of rivals like Cancellara and Sagan who also go well in wet conditions. But if it does rain, it'll be harder for everyone," he predicted./p>