By Gregor Brown
Italy named its team for the World Championships in Florence this morning. Head coach, Paolo Bettini said that the team will rely on Vuelta a España runner-up, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on September 29.
"Nibali is without a doubt our reference point but we know that he's not fast in a sprint," Bettini said at a press conference in Milan. "For that reason, at his side we need to have another man, a fast man, who can win in case the race comes down to a small group finish."
Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) will also wear the famous maglia azzurra or blue national jersey. After winning GP Plouay and fifth in the GP Montreal overnight, he ought to be Bettini's Plan B for Florence. Pozzato, with the team's backing, placed fourth behind Thor Hushovd (Norway) at the Geelong Worlds in 2010.
"I've often criticised Pozzato - we know that he has enormous potential and that his career has had its ups and downs - but he's going strongly and I've never seen him so concentrated," Bettini explained. "At Plouay he was perfect. Yesterday [in Montreal] he fought very well on a difficult course."
Besides Nibali and Pozzato, Bettini confirmed Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R-La Mondiale), Luca Paolini (Katusha), Simone Ponzi (Astana), Ivan Santaromita (BMC Racing), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), Alessandro Vanotti (Astana), Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) - 11 riders. Bettini, a two-time world champion, will name the two reserves and final nine-man team from this list on the eve of the race.
The race is expected to be the hardest in years with the Fiesole climb 10.5 kilometres out in the 16.57-kilometre circuit. The Via Salviati and Trento, both shorter but steeper, follow Fiesole in each of the 10 circuits. Chris Froome said in July that he relishes the opportunity to lead Great Britain given the parcours. "The Worlds," explained Froome, "is an event that doesn't often favour climbers like the way it does this year."
Nibali proved to be the best behind Horner at a Vuelta a España laden with climbs. Bettini hopes that Italy can blow apart the race for Nibali, who will then be able to go free with few or no rivals on the closing climbs.
"The point-to-point leg [from Lucca to Florence] flattens out the course a little bit but it all depends on the way the race develops," Bettini added. "We need to see if an escape goes clear immediately or if we need to start the fight right away on the San Baronto climb [at 58.7 kilometres into the race]."
The Italian cycling federation (FCI) also named the other national teams for the week-long event. Marco Pinotti (BMC Racing) and Adriano Malori (Lampre-Merida) will race the men's time trial on September 25. "Four names stand out: Brad Wiggins, Tony Martin, Fabian Cancellara and Taylor Phinney," Pinotti told Cycling Weekly. "Places fourth, fifth and on down are open for me."
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