Paul Bettini, Tuscan from Cecina born in 1974, in his career he has won everything there was to win. An Olympic Games, that of Athens 2004, two World Championships (2006 and 2007), Milan Sanremo (2003), twice Liège-Bastogne-Liege (2000, 2002) and two Tour of Lombardy (2005 and 2006) and stages in all three Grand Tours, just to name a few, for a total of 60 victories; the last one in 2008, in the twelfth stage of the Vuelta of Spain in the QuickStep-Innergetic jersey, the team he played with from 1999 to the end of his career. The Mondiali “Grillo” also raced four as coach of the national team without however hitting medals, but twice he stopped at the foot of the podium: in 2010 and 2013. Since last year Bettini has become brand ambassador of the Swiss company SWI in company of his friend and former professional Luca Paolini.
Are you expecting some welcome surprises from the Italian riders?
“I’m being honest, the only one I see is Filippo Ganna. He is not only the chronoman and the man of the track, for me Filippo has qualities that he has not yet expressed ”.
Ganna is betting a lot on Paris-Roubaix: do you think he can win it already this year?
“In my opinion, yes, it has the right potential”.
Why do you think sponsors find it hard to invest in cycling in Italy?
“Good question. No other sport gives cycling numbers. If today Mapei and Mercatone Uno are still considered as the great teams of our cycling it is because this sport gives back a fantastic thing. The whole world of cycling identifies the team in the sponsor. In Italy there are some very large companies. but it is hard to convince and the reason sincerely escapes me too”.
Evenepoel-Roglic at the Giro d’Italia: who do you see as favourite? A cast like this hasn’t been seen for a long time…
“It will be a good challenge. Between the two I see Remco as the favourite, but not because on paper he is stronger but because he can run in a different way, with a lighter head. Evenepoel still has many years ahead of him to be able to improve, but Roglic is different, as he is under more pressure and if he makes a mistake in the Giro, he would be equivalent to throwing away a season”.
The Federation is working very well for the track and mountain bike sectors. On the street, the discussion is more complex: is there anything you could do to improve the situation?
“The road right now mirrors the system. Professionalism lacks at least one World Tour team which would be a good opportunity for our youngsters. What can the Federation do about this? I don’t know, but it would be a topic to put on the table and think about at an institutional level. Our youth cycling is also closely linked to the 70s/80s and therefore our amateurs arrive at the end of the season with about 80 days of racing in their legs. Abroad, on the other hand, young people run less, but in professional races thanks to the existence of the Continental teams and this allows you to gain more experience. Our races are historic, but the approach abroad is different according to the growth of these kids”.
Do you have any regrets about the time you were coach?
“The only regret is not being able to bring a medal to Italy as coach. Potentially I had the men to do it like Filippo Pozzato, Marco Pinotti and Vincenzo Nibali. But history is not made with ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, that’s okay”.
If someone called you, would you be available to make yourself available to relaunch Italian cycling?
“All of us who have raced are always available to give our contribution to Italian cycling”.
Is there a runner in the group today who looks like you?
“Julian Alaphilippe, I don’t see him in Italy”.
A thought on your great rival Rebellin and the issue of road safety…
“Davide was a friend, a training partner, an opponent and much more. He has always had great professionalism and dedication to cycling, it was his life. We talk a lot about road safety but we need to radically change the system. It is a social problem, in Italy we are messy. There is a need for a reform linked to licenses: the sanctions are certainly useful, but we need to raise new licenses because we have a different culture, with much more respect for others. Pedestrians like bicycles are always the weak side. In Italy then, unlike Northern Europe, there is no culture of using the bike”.
Paolo Bettini: “In Italy I don’t see anything other than Ganna. As a coach, I have only one regret. Alaphilippe looks like me”