World champion Paolo Bettini teamed up with Italian national champion Giovanni Visconti to give the young Quick Step rider his second consecutive win at the Coppa Sabatini race in Tuscany.
Bettini has chosen Visconti as his apprentice and heir to his throne as best Italian classics rider and despite only being 24 years old, Visconti has quickly learned how to win in style. Although wearing the rainbow jersey for only the second time since Stuttgart, Bettini generously decided to sacrifice his own chances and ride for Visconti on the final two laps of the hilly circuit. Bettini lead the lead the front group through the finish with 12km to go and then made sure Visconti was well placed on the final climb to the finish.
Liquigas and Milram tried to lead out the charge to the line in the final kilometre but Bettini and Quick Step team-mate Andrea Tonti took Visconti near the front for the final corner and Visconti did the rest. Frank Schleck (CSC) lead out the uphill sprint to the line but Visconti came past him close to the barriers to take his third win of the season. Schleck was second with Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ceramica Flaminia) third.
?When I won here last year it was my first ever win as a professional but this is special because I won it wearing the Italian national champions jersey and thanks to Bettini,? Visconti said.
?It?s incredible that the world champion worked for me but he convinced me I could win and worked hard for right up until the final five hundred metres. I can?t thank him enough.?
Bettini sat up and finished out of the leading places but was happy that Visconti had won.
?I knew he really want to win again and I?m happy to have helped him and paid him back at least in part for what he?s done for me throughout the season. Sabatini is the race closest to my home and it was nice to be cheered on by so many people,? Bettini said.
After the Eroica race on dirt roads on Tuesday and the Coppa Sabatini near Pisa on Thursday, most of the riders targeting the Tour of Lombardy on October 20 now head north to Bologna for the Giro dell?Emilia on Saturday and the GP Beghelli on Sunday. Bettini has shown he has the form to perhaps win for second time but his understudy Visconti has proved he is almost ready to take over from his master.