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