Paolo Bettini has arrived in Beijing with the rest of the Italian cycling team; quietly confident he has a chance of winning a second gold medal in Saturday?s road race.

Bettini finished fourth behind major rival Alejandro Valverde in last Saturday?s Clasica San Sebastian but was pleased to discover that he was competitive against all the Olympic favourites despite not riding the Tour de France.

?I think my form is improving all the time, even if I was perhaps stronger four years ago when I won in Athens,? Bettini admitted.

?It?s always hard to beat riders like Valverde but hopefully he?s feeling tired after the Tour de France and his form will be fading.?

CUNEGO OUT AFTER TOUR DE FRANCE CRASH

The Italian team will be built around Bettini, with Davide Rebellin and Franco Pellizotti alternative leaders. They both performed well in San Sebastian, finishing third and fifth behind Valverde. Nibali has replaced Damiano Cunego in the road race team after failing to recover from his injuries sustained in a crash during stage 18 of the Tour de France.

?We lost Damiano because of his crash but we?ve still got a strong team with Davide Rebellin, Marzio Bruseghin, Vincenzo Nibali and Franco Pellizotti,? Bettini said.

?It?s going to be Italy against Spain but there are also a lot of other strong riders, people like Frank and Andy Schleck and Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg.?


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Bettini has heard detailed reports of the Olympic road race and will study in person in the next few days. He predicted the five-riders team will make it a very open race.

?The Olympic road race is a lot like an amateur race. Nobody has the numbers to control the race and anything can happen. It?s important to really be in the thick of the action and be in the really important attacks,? Bettini said.

?I?ve heard a lot about the course and heard the main climb goes up in ramps. That should make for some nervous racing with lots of attacks, which is exactly the way I like it.?

The men?s Olympic road race is on Saturday over a distance of 245km. The women?s 126km race is on Sunday, with the men?s and women?s time trials next Wednesday.

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