Interviewed after his fourth win in less than a month (the previous ones were Giro dell'Emilia on September 28th, a Tour of Lucca stage on October the 2nd, and Milano-Torino not earlier than three days ago), Michele Bartoli spoke out of the successful Giro di Lombardia and his 2002 season in general.
First of all "The Warrior" explained his "unusual" tactics: instead of attacking and trying to drop everyone, like he did more than one time in the past, he waited for the final sprint when, for the second time in 3 days, he edged out all of his rivals (today starting from "serial Runner-up" Davide Rebellin), also thanks to the perfect assistance he got from, and the leadout work done by, his Fassa Bortolo team-mates: "These tactics were actually part of the plans we made yesterday evening. We decided not to make an earlier move in the race, but wait for a small bunch sprint, when I should have gotten to the last turn in second place. And that's what actually happened, with Casagrande ahead of me, leading me out until the last 150 metres. I must thank him, and Basso, and the rest of the squad, all of them to the same extent".
Michele denies that today's victory, and his other recent wins, were the results of an extraordinary, unusual state of form. "This was the "usual" Bartoli I have been in the past too. A rider able to win some important things. This year I have succeeded in capturing two World Cup races, and other important contests as well, such that in the end I can say I'm truly satisfied with my achievements".
Bartoli couldn't escape a "tricky" question about last Sunday's World Championships, a race he didn't take part to, as he wasn't included in the national team roster. But what could have happened if things had taken a different turn, with the man being selected for the Zolder competition ? "Well, I would have done for Cipollini the same things I'm used to do at Fassa. Whenever the likes of Petacchi or Casagrande, or Basso need a help, I work for them. And I would have done the same for Cipo too, even being proud to accomplish that task".
No polemical statements about his missed inclusion in the Italian squad, and no envy for brand new World Cup champion Paolo Bettini either. His former teammate (or perhaps "loyal domestique" would be a better definition) got the greatest achievement so far in his career, and Bartoli praised him. "I'm happy for Paolo. He fully deserves this World Cup victory. " Maybe hoping to take his place next year ? (that would be Bartoli's third World Cup overall win) ? "No ... well, no doubts that the World Cup is one of my targets for the next season anyway. I hope I may do well in that competition, where I'll probably find him as rival".
Still about him and Bettini: somebody had the impression that, when "the Cricket" got dropped on the Selvino climb, and Bartoli did the same soon later, Michele was slowing down on purpose, just to wait his former teammate and help him to regain the main bunch, where there was Bettini's only WC challenger, Igor Astarloa.
But when asked about this, "the Warrior" smiled and said "No. Things didn't go that way. If I had been in good condition in that moment, perhaps I would have attacked and tried to put more distance on him, something that usually happens in cycling. Bettini regained the group thanks to both his own efforts and the help he got from Nardello. As for me, I had some stomach problems while climbing to Selvino, but recovered soon, and was completely OK in final part of the race"
A successful final part of the race, which resembled the successful final part of Bartoli's 2002 season: Not a year with Lady Luck on the tuscan's side anyway, as once more a suffered serious injuries (courtesy of a bad crash in the Giro's first stage) that forced him out of competition for a couple of months, before his stunning comeback in early Autumn. But Saturday's winner considers the 2002 season a good one for him : "It's true that I wasn't too lucky in this season, but regardless of that, I still think it has been one of my best years". And looking at the several recent additions to the man's palmares, one could hardly say he's wrong.
Interview with World Cup winner Paolo Bettini to come later on the "Daily Peloton".