According to reports in Thursday?s edition of Italian sports paper Gazzetta dello Sport, Lance Armstrong could ride the Giro d?Italia during his comeback in 2009.

The Texan has announced he will start his comeback at the Tour Down Under in Australia and is targeting the Tour de France. He never rode the Giro during his career but is tempted to head to Italy next May.

?I?ve only said which races I?m going to ride, so I can?t exclude [the Giro d?Italia],? Armstrong told Gazzetta.

?The next Giro is the centenary edition and so I know how important it?ll be for the tifosi. If I can get Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi involved more in the fight against cancer, and if it fits in with other things, who knows. It could be the right year to do it. Race director Angelo Zomegnan is a good friend of mine??

Rumours circulating at the world championships suggest that the 2009 Giro d?Italia, the centenary edition of the race will start in Venice.

The Giro usually finishes in Milan, the home of the Gazzetta dello Sport that organises the race but there are rumours that the 2009 could finish in Rome for only the third time in the long history of the race.

Several historic stages are set to be recreated, including the legendary Cuneo to Pinerolo that Fausto Coppi won in 1949.

Italy?s Paolo Bettini is under huge pressure to win a third world championships on home roads, but insists he is relaxed and will celebrate whatever the result.

?I know I?ve got a chance to make a little bit of world championship history because nobody has ever won the world title three times [in a row]. I could get wound up about it but I?m actually very relaxed,? Bettini told Italian Sky television.

Bettini is the leader of the Italian team with the likes of Davide Rebellin, Damiano Cunego and Luca Paolini all set to sacrifice their chances to help Bettini win a third consecutive title. Only Alessandro Ballan will be an alternative leader but his poor sprint means the Italians? ?Plan B? is unlikely to be used. Riders of the quality of Danilo Di Luca and Filippo Pozzato were left out of the team so that the Italian team is built around Bettini.

?We?re a good team that has been carefully created, we?re friends and we?ve all known each other for years and all raced together. We all know Sunday is going to be a special day,? Bettini said.

The 34 year-old Tuscan will celebrate what ever happens in the road race on Sunday because it is also his daughter?s fifth birthday. ?Even if I don?t get a third rainbow jersey, we?ll celebrate. Veronica?s fifth birthday is important too??

On the day Lance Armstrong confirmed his return, another key player in cycling troubled past quietly announced he was retiring.

Hein Verbruggen said he was quitting his role of UCI vice-president at the age of 67 and would retire to study medieval history. He remain an honorary president of the UCI but will have no direct involvement in the running of the sport. Verbruggen quit his role at the International Olympic Committee in August after the Beijing Games.


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2007 World Champs: Men’s road race
2007 World Champs: Women’s road race

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