The Italian national team will test themselves for the first time ahead of the World Championships against Britain's Mark Cavendish on Sunday in Ballarat, Australia. The race, one week before the Worlds, will help Italy decide if it made the correct decision to leave at home its sprinters for the trip.
"Cavendish won't be there in the end," Paolo Bettini told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, "otherwise we made a mistake."
Italy's head coach, Bettini brought to Australia a nine-man team of attacking riders for the World Championships with fairly fast men, like Filippo Pozzato, but he left at home out-right sprinters. Cavendish, winner of three sprint stages at the Vuelta a España this month, will easily beat any of Bettini's men if the race arrives in a group sprint. Bettini, however, is betting the race will not end that way.
Along with Pozzato, who won a stage at the Giro d'Italia, Bettini has Vuelta a España winner Vincenzo Nibali and Italian Champion Giovanni Visconti as his team's natural leaders.
"We have won on as a whole this season, gaining overall credit," said Bettini.
"They have all demonstrated their right to be here. I can't find any riders in Italy stronger than them."
Sunday's Herald Sun World Cycling Classic race in Ballarat, 75 kilometres from the location of the World Championships, will give Italy and Cavendish a chance to test themselves. The race is 130 kilometres, six times around a 19.4-kilometre circuit and one time on the circuit the Australians used in their national championships this year.
The Italians began their training in Geelong after they arrived on Thursday morning. They completed 70 kilometres on Thursday, which included the Worlds circuit, and yesterday, they rode out and back on first leg of the Worlds course that travels from Melbourne.
The Italian team will race in white jerseys with the words "Ballero, sempre con noi" [Ballero, always with us], a dedication to former head coach Franco Ballerini. Ballerini died in a rally car race on February 7.
Cavendish rode about 60 kilometres on an acclimatisation with Jeremy Hunt on Thursday after he arrived.
"It's a tough circuit, a hard circuit. But there's enough recovery not to be on your knees," Cavendish told Australia's Herald Sun newsaper.
"Everyone says it's not really a sprinters' course, but it's a course I can win on. I am not the favourite, but it is possible to win."
World Championships 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
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