What's Cool In Road Cycling

Paolo Bettini: the Rebirth of Cool

Double deal for Mapei in Liege

– Liege Full Story –

An irresistible victory for Paolo Bettini and another collective showdown for Mapei. Former Giro d’Italia champion Stefano Garzelli, probably the strongest man today, brought his front man right to the last inches of

If there is any classic in Northern Europe that brings forth Italian champions, it’s this one, the untouchable specialist being Moreno Argentin with 4 victories.
The oldest classic in the book (since 1892!) saw a final among lots and lots of Italians and one German hopeful, Matthias Kessler. Again the feared mount de La Redoute made all the difference. And in the top-5,
again no Rabobank, Deutsche Telekom, Fassa Bortolo, US Postal or Lotto in sight.

On the flanks of the difficult climb, Michael Boogerd, Davide Rebellin, Francesco Casagrande, Peter van Petegem, Alexandre Vinokourov and Lance Armstrong never came any nearer to the group of six that had
fled the bunch only minutes before the summit, led by Stefano Garzelli.

On St Nicolas, the final mount, obviously the two Mapei riders were much stronger than their companions. Garzelli and Bettini just drove away, and were already able to shake each others hands half a mile before the
finish. Of course Bettini had to win, but at least they pretended to have a sprint a deux.

What else can be said, except that Bettini had been deserving this victory for over a year now? Constantly in the front line, eager at all times to win a sprint even for a 5th or 10th place, the small Italian finally freed himself of being second man for Mapei after Michele
Bartoli. Of course Bartoli stepped out of the team halfway last season and went to Fassa, but still Bettini needed to prove himself once more.

Every classic and worldcup race, he’s in the top-20, playing it cool but surprising himself and his fans all the time. He should have been world champion now if the Italians had controlled themselves in Lisbon
last fall.

If you look at Paolo’s palmares, note the clear upgoing line. Today he reached his peak and now he won his second Liege. And if he needed the typical Mapei strategy and the help of an impressive peer, so be it. And why shouldn’t it be more? Maybe Mr Liege, Moreno Argentin, should watch out. Paolo has unleashed himself.

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