Bettini: The Cricket Climbs the World
– Reported by Gazzetta dello Sport –
Paolo Bettini is definitely the racer of the moment: in six days his victories in Hamburg and San Sebastian launched him to the head of the World Cup classification (climbing above Peter Van Petegem who is now trailing by 97 points). The Tuscan has also reinforced his leadership in the UCI world rankings (Gilberto Simoni now resides in second) and then one can’t forget his wins in Milan-San Remo and the Italain National Championships. For most professional cyclists, it’s a palmares that would be a dream to achieve during their entire career. The ‘Cricket’, on the other hand, have achieved all this in a few short months.
But the best may yet to come. The year 2003, in fact, could be a year that places Bettini in to the history of cycling. Certainly it’s far from a sure thing, but the reality is in plain view for everyone: the Tuscan could add to his list of victories the World Championships in Hamilton (which he races in Canada on October 12th). “Already reclaiming the World Cup is a difficult goal – confesses Bettini – Now the road seems to be declining, but I’m not losing my concentration. I’m in a period of exceptional form right now and the will to win is still great. Sunday, for example, I think that the Championships of Zurich are adapted to my characteristics. In fact, I don’t need to be limited to defending my World Cup lead.”
Bettini’s caution is not just humility, it’s based on experience. After the victory in Milan-San Remo, the Quick.Step rider was considered to be the hot ticket for a repeat in the World Cup. Then a fall in Ghent-Whevelgem injured the ‘Cricket’s’ shoulder and sidelined Bettini for two months. The forced rest might have been exactly what he needed, after an excellent Tour de France, the form is as good as it was at the beginning of the season. So much so that Franco Ballerini, director of the Italian national team, has already named Bettini as the sole leader in the World Championships.
“The rainbow jersey is a dream for all riders – said Bettini – It’s not up to me to decide the course of our team, but I think that I can be a protagonist. There are many other athletes that could win. Certainly, this seems to be my season…”