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98th Giro di Lombardia - The Final Showdown
By Podofdonny
Date: 10/15/2004
98th Giro di Lombardia - The Final Showdown

The falling leaves of Italy will provide a perfect grande finale for what has been the most intriguing World Cup series in its short history. How ironic that, in the very year that the UCI decide to finally give up on the event, the series has captured the imagination of cycling fans worldwide.

Of course, it is never the event, parcours or even conditions that determine the success of a cycle race, it is always the human factor which excites the fans. In the last race, Paris Tours, Erik Dekker thrilled fans with an outstanding ride of grit and determination, and left the stage perfectly set for a final showdown.

This year the Winner of the World Cup will be decided on the final race of the ten. The Giro di Lombardia will determine whether Davide Rebellin or Paolo Bettini will take the final honours, provided both riders live up to expectations. Sometimes showdowns don’t work out to plan. and with Spanish teams in general and Oscar Freire in particular being in fine form following the recent Vuelta and World Championships, it should be remembered that should Freire win and Bettini and Rebellin fail to finish in the top 25 that the triple World Road race Champion would gain a victory as dramatic as his two wins in Verona.

But the stage is set for a dramatic shootout between Bettini and Rebellin: Bettini, the Californian cowboy, sophisticated, eloquent and popular across Europe. Davide Rebellin, equally gifted on a bike but, shy, awkward, a self imposed exile, means he now rides as an Argentine Gaucho towards the season's high noon.

Quickstep’s "Californian" Paolo Bettini is nicknamed “Il Grillo” (The Cricket) for his ability to surprise riders with explosive attacks. The Olympic Gold medallist, who is from "La California", a small part of the town Bibbona in Tuscany, Italy, is looking to make it three World Cup victories in a row. He has based his success on consistency which saw him take three second places – the Hew Cyclassics Hamburg, the Clásica San Sebastian and the Championship of Zurich. His Gold Medal in Athens was expected and won. The typical Italian drama at the World Championship road race saw Bettini pull out after a handlebar/car door controversy which once again proved Italians love cycling, women, conversation and cars, although not always in that order. The fallout from the “Verona affair” was short lived; true to style, the Cricket jumped first and he finished Paris Tours ahead of Rebellin to gain a vital 13 point advantage in the World cup competition.

The spotlight on the charisma of “Californian Cowboy” Bettini casts long shadows. The “Gaucho” Rebellin is looking for sunlight and glory. Nicknamed “Trebellin” after his unique victories the Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, he found himself overlooked for the Olympics and decided enough was enough. Fearing non-selection for the Worlds, his bid to possess an Argentine licence was successful, but too late. The fact that a triple classic winner was unable to ride both the Olympics and the Worlds in a heat with his main rival only magnifies the drama of this race.

King of Italian commentators, Fabio, will bring the race live to your computer as it happens...don’t touch that dial!!!!

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