Rising Italian star Vincenzo Nibali will form part of Italy’s nine-man team for the World Championships in Geelong, Australia, on October 3. Nibali will support team leader Filippo Pozzato, while former world champion, Alessandro Ballan will watch from television.
The nine-man Italian team, according to Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, is Filippo Pozzato (Katusha), Giovanni Visconti (ISD), Vincenzo Nibali, Daniel Oss (both Liquigas), Luca Paolini (Acqua & Sapone), Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre), Marzio Bruseghin (Caisse d’Epargne), Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step), Marco Pinotti (HTC-Columbia). Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r) and Andrea Tonti (CarmioOro) will travel to Geelong as reserves.
The Italian cycling federation (FCI) and new head coach, Paolo Bettini will officially announce the team at a press conference in Rome at 12:15 local time.
Nibali is currently second overall at the Vuelta a España, which ends on Sunday in Madrid. In May, the Sicilian rode to third overall, wore the leader’s pink jersey and won a stage at the Giro d’Italia while helping Ivan Basso win the overall classification. The season is a continuation of last year’s success, seventh at the Tour de France.
The Geelong Worlds will be Nibali’s first participation, though he sat on the bench in 2007 in Stuttgart when Bettini won the second of his two titles.
Last month, Bettini inspected the Geelong course. It is 262.7-kilometres: the first 85-kilometre leg from Melbourne to Geelong is flat and the last 11 15.9-kilometre circuits contain two small climbs. It is supposed to suit the sprinters and possibly the attackers.
Nibali is better known as a stage racer, though he won the GP Ouest-France one-day race in 2006.
“Vincenzo has an enormous amount of power, above all on a 260-kilometre course, and he knows how to race under pressure,” said Pozzato last week. “And we will have our share of pressure.”
With Nibali, and other two other debutants – Gavazzi and Oss – Bettini had to leave out some experienced riders, namely 2006 World Champion Alessandro Ballan. Ballan raced the Tour de France in support of Cadel Evans and finished in the top ten in both of Canada’s ProTour races over the weekend. The exclusion of Ballan and team-mate Mauro Santambrogio will raise some eyebrows, even if Nibali is Italy’s new star.
Bettini and his nine riders have the weight of expectation on them. Italy won four of the first 10 World Championships starting with Alfredo Binda at the first edition in 1927, and it has won four of the last ten editions (Mario Cipollini in 2002, Bettini in 2006 and 2007, Ballan in 2008).
Great Britain will be at a disadvantage in terms of its numbers, three riders versus Italy’s ten due to national rankings. Mark Cavendish will lead the team and be supported by David Millar and Jeremy Hunt.
All categories, including professionals, for the first time will all race without two-way radios in accordance with UCI regulation 2.2.024. The GP Ouest-France and the Tour de France (one stage, Issoudun) ran without radios last year.