The build up to the Worlds is on, Italy have the World Champion and are the team to beat, not only as they have the favourite for that type of course, Paolo Bettini and a team of talented riders, but they have a team manager called Franco Ballerini… and this I am slowly realizing is worth more than meets the eye.
Franco is a guy for every moment: Franco the friend, Franco the husband, Franco the father, Franco the joker, Franco the professional, Franco the Italian Team Manager. Speaking to Franco is always a pleasure, he answers the phone saying ” DUNCAN !! Mitico, Grande” this makes me smile and laugh… Franco Ballerini thinks I’m an all time great, a myth… he respects me! This make me feel GREAT. I walk into work and give my receptionists a pay rise……they now…also love Franco Ballerini!!
I spoke to Ballerini a couple of times in the last week and asked him about the worlds and his reason behind his choice of team.
PEZ: Franco, how are you?
FB: Ok, this is obviously a time when I have a lot to do, but it’s all going well and everybody is confident.
PEZ: When do you arrive in Toronto?
FB : On the 6th Oct in the afternoon.
PEZ: Do you feel that Italy is a marked team?
FB: Oh yes, but we will ride as we planned regardless. We have a great team, not only because of Bettini. The only other team I see being as strong as Italy in depth of riders for this course is Spain.
PEZ: With having such a strong team with many possible winners, do you see the team to gel together as it did last year.
FB: The team was picked to work together and because they are all capable of winning and sacrificing to help another win… it’s a team. We all learned so much from the last Worlds in Zolder, it was text book cycling….and this is not only what I expect to see again, but what all the riders are working towards and what Italy the public want to see…..if we win or not is another thing but the best chance to win is to work as a team for one result. We all accept being beaten by a stronger team or a stronger rider on the day….but not because it didn’t gel and didn’t give it our all.
PEZ: A few eyebrows were raised by the fact that Bartoli and Rebellin were left out of the team. Boogerd said that Bartoli would be one of the clear favourites and a team captain if he was Dutch. Was it difficult to leave them out?
FB: My decision was easy to make but it’s always difficult to leave such class riders at home. My decision was easy as I knew what type of riders I needed in the team and Bartoli and Rebellin didn’t come into the picture, this I explained to them both and I know it’s not easy but they both know cycling as well as me and both accepted my reasons. They are both great riders and born captains. Neither of them are a natural “gregario” especially on a course that would suit them. I can’t split a team and with Bettini all year showing his class the team was built around him with some other riders like Di Luca and Casagrande in with a chance if given a free reign… but these will work for Bettini.
PEZ: Do you feel that this year’s team is stronger than last years?
FB: It’s different, but strong if not stronger. Last year as I said, we learned a lot and this year all the riders believe it can be copied. I like the team, they are all intelligent riders that know what they are there to do. There are no individuals but a team… last year Cipollini didn’t win….Italy the team did.
PEZ: Is the course selective enough for you?
FB: It’s tough, maybe going around it once doesn’t seem too tough but go around it 18 times at the speed they will… and it’s tough Dunc. Even if it is tough today’s cyclists are tough… Italy has an advantage in Bettini as he is capable winning from an attack on the last hill or in the sprint.
PEZ: All I can do Franco is wish you all the best…apart from a win from the GB team I can say I will be pulling for you guys.
FB: Thanks Dunc…it will be a great race , I’ll hear from you soon.
Well there you are. Franco Ballerini wants a team, not individuals, and he picked exactly that. If they win or come close to it all you can say is that the best member of the team IS FRANCO BALLERINI.
Ciao for now Dunc