Paolo Bettini believes that Italy and Great Britain could find a common ground in the World Championships next Sunday. Its leader, Vincenzo Nibali, like Chris Froome, needs an aggressive race to have a chance at taking the rainbow jersey.
"There's never been alliance in the Worlds without a common desire," Italy's national coach Bettini told Cycling Weekly. "It's clear, if Great Britain really counts on Froome then they can't arrive in the last lap with 80 riders."
This year's course takes in 272.26 kilometres in Tuscany, including 10 difficult circuits around Florence. The circuit undulates so much, many expect Grand Tour riders like Nibali and Froome will have their way. Neither, however, sprints quickly. They will not have the chance to wear the rainbow jersey if they arrive in a group with Joaquím Rodríguez (Spain), Peter Sagan (Slovakia) or defending champion, Philippe Gilbert (Belgium).
Bettini explained that his team will be active from the start, perhaps on the point-to-point section from Lucca or immediately after the circuit starts.
"[Great Britain] will want to make an active race, something that we want to do," Bettini added. "It's likely that our way of racing will be similar to theirs and as a consequence, we help each other."
Each circuit features three climbs, including 4.37 kilometres up to Fiesole just north of Florence. Froome stayed in a hotel in the countryside town in August, right after winning the Tour de France, to see the major climb and the circuit first-hand. After Fiesole, the circuit travels over short and steep Salviati and Trento roads.
"If it's relaxed, guys like Sagan and Gilbert can stay in the race," Sagan's trainer at team Cannondale, told Cycling Weekly, "If Italy or the other teams start making it aggressive, it's going to be hard."
According to Bettini, this is where Great Britain and Italy find common ground.
"Vincenzo can go to the finish line with [Spain's Alberto] Contador and Froome, he can beat those guys," Bettini added. "It's going to be hard if Gilbert or Sagan is there. We also can't ignore Fabian Cancellara [Switzerland] and Edvald Boasson Hagen [Norway], who are very dangerous."
Bettini relies on Filippo Pozzato to win a sprint if a small group goes clear. He admitted that both his and Great Britain's Grand Tour stars lack one-day race wins in their palmarès. Froome won the Giro del Capo in 2009, but it was technically part of a multi-day event. Nibali counts six.
"Froome is an unknown like Nibali, who's not won a one-day race since 2010. How far back do you have to go with Froome?" said Bettini. "It's an unknown for us with Nibali, but we have many other cards to play."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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