Bettini previews worlds course in Limburg, tips Italy’s hand

The two-time world champion Italian drove the 2012 worlds course and expects a four or five-man group to punch up a sprint for the rainbow stripes in September

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MAASTRICHT, Netherlands (VN) — Italy’s national team director, Paolo Bettini visited Limburg this weekend ahead of the Amstel Gold Race to preview the world championship parcours.

“I know it well,” he told VeloNews. “I raced my first worlds as a professional here in 1998.”

The world championships kick off on September 16 with a new trade team time trial. The crown event, the men’s road race is a week later on September 23.

As with the Amstel Gold Race tomorrow, the worlds road race starts in Maastricht and ends up the Cauberg climb above Valkenburg. The Amstel parcours wanders through the Limburg countryside and takes in 31 climbs, including the Cauberg three times. The men’s road race course follows along the same lines for the first 100 kilometers and then enters a closing circuit for 10 laps at 16.5 kilometers each. Riders will climb the Bemelerberg and the Cauberg each laps.

Bettini raced largely the same course 14 years ago, but without the early point-to-point section. Yesterday, he drove the 100km stretch and one lap of the circuit.

“Enough of the bike! I only ride every so often,” he said with a grin. Bettini was one of the best one-day cyclists of his era, winning the worlds twice, the Olympics once and monuments like Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“The first 100km section will be more or less like the Amstel Gold Race, even a little easier than the first part of the Amstel,” he said. “The majority of it weaves its way though the countryside, small roads, so you can’t hang out at the back of the group. You need to stay at the front and be ready at all times.”

The first leg takes in seven climbs: Maasberg, Adsteeg, Lange Raarberg, Daelseweg, Rugweg, Eperheide and Hoogcruts. They’re climbs used in Amstel this year, with the exception of the Daelseweg, Rugweg and Hoogcruts. Afterwards, the race enters the circuit for 160 kilometers an 20 climbs.

Bettini said that the race will suit Amstel riders like Samuel Sánchez and Joaquím Rodríguez of Spain, Cadel Evans (Australia), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) and Peter Sagan (Slovakia). He added that he might lead with Damiano Cunego, who won Amstel in 2008.

One key difference is that the worlds finish line is 1.5 kilometers after the top of the Cauberg. Bettini explained, “While someone can arrive solo in Amstel, it’s likely that four or five riders will re-group after the top in the worlds.”

The UCI introduced the point-to-point idea in 2010, when it took the riders from Melbourne to Geelong in Australia. Bettini took over as sports director earlier that year when Franco Ballerini died in a rally car crash.

“The true problem revolves around escapes,” Bettini said. “On a circuit, you can control them better and they never get more than three or four minutes. In a point-to-point race, the escape can get up to 15 minutes. You saw it in Geelong, where it was a very dangerous situation!”

This evening, Bettini will visit Cunego at his hotel over the border in Lanaken, Belgium. They’ll discuss the course and Italy’s plans for September 23.

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