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World Champion Bettini shows form with Vuelta stage win

Paolo Bettini took his first 2008 Vuelta win

Paolo Bettini took his first 2008 Vuelta win (Image credit: AFP)

Paolo Bettini proved he is in fine form leading up to the World Championships later this month in Varese, Italy, when he won the 150.1km sixth stage of the Vuelta España from Ciudad Real to Toledo. Bettini defeated Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) and Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) in the finale.

It was Bettini's fourth win at the Spanish Grand Tour since 2005.

"Winning in a beautiful city like Toledo is something special," said Bettini. "I'll count this as one of my greatest victories. It was not an easy finish line, but I've had this date marked on my calendar since the starting in Granada.

"I also wish I'd done better in Jaén, but as usual it takes me a couple of days to find my rhythm on the pedals after a period without competitions," he said. "Spanish roads are lucky for me. I’ve always found ideal conditions here."

Bettini credited both his team director with a good explanation of the final part of the stage and his team-mates. "The team did a great job sacrificing themselves for me and keeping the group in single file during the last uphill tract," he said. "I saw Gilbert take off in the last meters and I knew it was time to make my move. I gave it my all; I knew I had to position myself in second place at the 200m curve."

In just a few weeks, Bettini will participate in the World Championships on home soil. He will be going for his third consecutive title. "Now I want to work in peace as I look forward to the World Championship. My adversaries? As always, the usual guys. I'm also looking out for Gilbert.

"As far as teams go," added Bettini, "clearly Spain is our closest rival." Coming off an Olympic victory by Samuel Sánchez, Spain will be one of the favorite nations to provide a winner at worlds.

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