Italian Team Coach Franco Ballerini
Copyright © The Daily Peloton
The full list of names of the 15 Italian riders going to Hamilton for the Elite Men Road Race of the upcoming World Championships (set to take place on Sunday, October 12), was finally unveiled on Monday morning in the town of Salice Terme.
All things considered, the list is more or less what many expected it to be, with most of the “main suspects” being awarded a spot and Ballerini, probably impressed by the recent performances of Caldirola’s Paolo Bossoni (winner of last Saturday’s Giro dell’Emilia) and Panaria’s Luca Mazzanti, giving them a place among the fifteen of the National Team, two of which will figure as reserves only.
So here are the names, and their respective Trade Teams:
Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze-Elitron, authomatically admitted as reigning World Champion)
Paolo Bettini (Quick-Step Davitamon)
Danilo Di Luca (Team Saeco)
Francesco Casagrande (Lampre)
Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo)
Sergio Barbero (Lampre)
Paolo Bossoni (Vini Caldirola–So.Di.)
Giovanni Lombardi (Domina Vacanze-Elitron)
Luca Mazzanti (Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo)
Cristian Moreni (Alessio)
Daniele Nardello (Team Telekom)
Andrea Noè (Alessio)
Luca Paolini (Quick-Step Davitamon)
Fabio Sacchi (Team Saeco)
Mario Scirea (Domina Vacanze-Elitron)
While making his decisions, Ballerini lived up to expectations, perhaps with the exclusion of Domina Vacanze’s Massimo Giunti (a likely member of the next “Squadra Azzurra” according to many pundits, but facts proved them wrong) and Davide Bramati as only exceptions.
Of course neo-father Bettini (his first daughter Veronica was born yesterday in Florence) will be playing the Team Leader part, with Danilo Di Luca as "main suspect" to take his place in case the Quick Step rider failed. But there’s many other world-class guys, to start from Basso and Casagrande, whose legs might have a lot of things to say in Canada.
Shall I be the Champion ? Bettini's looking for an answer from the stars
Copyright © Anita Van Crey
As for the Elite Men Time Trial, Italy will be represented by one man only, Dario Frigo. The presence of just a single rider, instead of the two guys the National Team could field, and many other squads will, may be seen as another prove of the low popularity this kind of race enjoys in the country.
In his first interviews after issuing the list of the “Azzurri”, Franco Ballerini sounded optimistic: "This year I believe in my decisions even more, as the 2002 race in Zolder made me realize that when you believe in your choices you can set up something that may really work. Paolo Bettini will be our reference point, but in my plans there’s a united team, united in every sense. Danilo Di Luca is a talented rider, he was off to a difficult season start, but I believe in him. And Francesco Casagrande is a very accomplished athlete.
And what did he say about Cipollini ? The Lion King could be part of the team, as he’s the defending champion, but will his condition be good enough to enable Cipo to help his team-mates (something Super Mario owes them, after the huge team work the rest of the “Squadra Azzurra”, Bettini included, accomplished in Zolder for him) ? "Whether he opted for coming to Hamilton, or staying in Italy, it would be his own decision. He still has plenty of time at disposal to decide. I often hear from him, and I know that he’s seriously taking his presence at the Worlds into consideration, like a true professional".
More positive comments about Ballerini’s choices came from Italy’s former coach Alfredo Martini, the man who led Gianni Bugno, Francesco Moser and others to more than a World Title "The Team coach decisions were good and meditated. I often talk to Ballerini, although I have never dared to influence his choices, and I can say that there’s a perfect feeling between us. We have got a strong squad, with riders that know how to make a good team work. If a leader is not supported by great team-mates, to win a race becomes much more difficult for him".
Stay tuned to the Daily Peloton for our special, comprehensive coverage of the 2003 World Championships, with Team previews, news, results, reports, interviews and more.