A tough stance on doping helped shape Italy’s team selection for the World Championships in Copenhagen on September 25. Sprinter Daniele Bennati will lead the team and receive support from the country’s young stars.

Bennati won the penultimate stage of the Vuelta a España on Saturday in Vitoria to confirm his strength. He also helped his Leopard-Trek team win the opening time trial. Veterans Matteo Tosatto, Luca Paolini and Manuel Quinziato will support Bennati, but they will be flanked by many emerging talents: Daniel Oss, Giovanni Visconti, Sacha Modolo, Manuel Belletti, Oscar Gatto, Elia Viviani and Francesco Gavazzi.

Head coach and two-time world champion Paolo Bettini will confirm his seletion today. In the week prior to the race, he will select the two reserves from the 11 men.

The 266-kilometre course in Copenhagen favours sprinters. Great Britain will likely lead with Mark Cavendish, Australia with Matt Goss and Spain with Oscar Gatto. Italy, however, will leave home the man who beat Cavendish Tour last year and at the Giro this year: Alessandro Petacchi.

After the Riccardo Riccò scandal earlier this year and several other doping cases, Italy authorized a new rule for participation in future worlds and nationals. In June, the Italian cycling federation (FCI) decided to ban all cyclists who have served a doping suspension of six months or more.

“Italy has had more doping cases than other nations,” Marco Pinotti told Cycling Weekly in June, “so the signal needs to be stronger.”

Pinotti will represent Italy with Adriano Malori in the time trial on September 21.

“I’m bitter about it,” Petacchi told La Gazzetta dello Sport in June. “I know there’s nothing I can do and that I have to accept it.”

Petacchi led the Worlds team in Madrid in 2005 and helped Mario Cipollini win in Zolder in 2002. In 2007, however, he tested positive for excessive levels of asthma medication and received a one-year suspension.

The FCI’s decision also prohibits Ivan Basso, Danilo Di Luca, Michele Scarponi, Davide Rebellin and other cyclists caught doping.

Basso said this week that he was sorry he could no longer wear the Italian team jersey. But he added, “We have a strong group of young riders, who how to take the advantage.”

The average age of Italy’s team is 28. Taking Bennati, Tosatto, Paolini and Quinziato out of the equation, it is 25.

Italian team for 2011 World Championships: Nine riders (and two reserves)

Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek), 30

Matteo Tosatto (Saxo Bank-SunGard), 37

Luca Paolini (Katusha), 34

Manuel Quinziato (BMC Racing), 31

Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale), 24

Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini), 28

Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox), 24

Manuel Belletti (Colnago-CSF Inox), 25

Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini), 26

Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale), 22

Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre-ISD), 27

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