November 2007

By Graham Jones
CyclingRevealed Historian










The World's: Back to Back

Paolo Bettini (WC 2006 & 2007), Italy

Paolo Bettini
A Bettini caricature on the Kemelberg, Belgium

‘The Cricket” (il grillo), as his fans like to call him, is a rider that evokes memories of bygone years. Paolo Bettini is one of the few champions left who races the entire season. Rarely does he ride simply to be ‘pack fodder'. He loves to race, he always wants to be part of the real action and like any true champion, it's all about winning.

Rarely is the greatness of rider recognized during his time. For Bettini time will take care of that because he is truly one of the greats. When Bettini is on fire (which is often) the racing is never boring. And if there is a prize to be had his punchy attacking injects electric action into the race. In this year's Vuelta he was on the attack almost every day. When he finally decided to withdraw from the race to rest for the upcoming World's he was leading the Points Competition.

In the Grand Tours he has at some time occupied most of the major jersey's either temporarily or permanently. But his Achilles heel is the high mountains. Like Van Steenbergen before him, if he chose to specialize, Bettini would conquer the high passes and be considered a potential Grand Tour winner.

His list of one-day victories is extremely impressive and includes Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2000, 2002), Milan-Sanremo (2003), Giro di Lombardia (2005, 2006), Clásica de San Sebastián (2003), HEW Cyclassics Cup (2003) and Züri-Metzgete (2001, 2005).

In addition to his classics the current reigning World Champion is also the reigning Olympic Road Race Champion. This of itself is a unique combination. Bettini enjoys his achievements and he carries the rainbow jersey with great pride. As the days ticked by in the recent Vuelta he stated his sadness at losing the valued tunic.

As it turned out the German authorities ignited Bettini's fire. The race organizers had tried to ban him from the event by claiming in court that Bettini had links to a drug scandal. The court threw the case out for complete lack of evidence. The Cricket arrived in Stuttgart totally enraged and even more determined to retain his rainbow jersey which he did with great style.


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