MILAN (VN) — Paolo Bettini’s future, despite a strong race Sunday at the world championship, might not include team Italy. Italian media reports that he could stay, change his post within the federation or leave, perhaps to join Fernando Alonso’s team.
Bettini, the current coach of Italy’s national team, has reason to stay. Italy rode as a unit Sunday, split the race and put Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) in the winning position. Nibali, however, was unable to deal with his rivals. Spain threw its punches and Portugal’s Rui Costa (Movistar) dealt the winning blow, but Bettini’s team made sure Nibali was present.
“The medal was won, we raced as a team,” Bettini said Sunday of Nibali’s fourth place. “A rider [Michele Scarponi] said to me, I’ve never seen this much camaraderie in any of my teams, even in my club teams as an amateur.”
As Bettini spoke, his eyes became misty. In his four years, from when he took over after Franco Ballerini died in 2010, he succeeded in further uniting the Squadra Azzurra. Every rider had his role and carried it out for his nation.
When the rain let up and the picture became clearer, Bettini met with Italian cycling federation (FCI) president Renato Di Rocco to discuss his role.
“I’d like to continue this role,” Bettini told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It’s an honor to represent your nation.”
“There’s no problems,” Di Rocco added. “I’ve never considered another option to Bettini. The Bettini-project is going ahead, even if we need to give it a helping hand.”
Bettini’s contract ends on December 31. Already this last summer, it appeared changes were happening when Max Sciandri was named and then turned down the offer to replace Bettini.
Sciandri was due to head the men’s team eventually while Bettini took on more of a managerial role. This may still happen without Sciandri. Bettini and Di Rocco agreed that the under-23 and juniors need help, and it needs to expand across disciplines to include track cycling.
More meetings like Monday’s will need to happen to work on the details and budget. If Bettini were to step up and out of his sports director role, Di Rocco might consider Michele Bartoli, Maurizio Fondriest, or Davide Cassani as the new national coach.
Alonso, according to newspaper Tutto Sport, may be interested in Bettini for his 2015 project. After the Euskaltel-Euskadi deal fell through, he has time to create a team from scratch for 2015. As such, he visited Florence during the world championships and went to see the Mapei training center in Varese.
As part of his tour, Alonso met with Bettini and went on the bus after Nibali placed fourth. The two know each other via Fabrizio Borra, who was Bettini’s physiotherapist when he won two world titles and now works for the Formula One driver. As part of his million-euro budget, he could sign Bettini as early as 2014 to prepare the team and to sign riders for 2015.
Bettini will consider his options. As he said over the weekend, “It’s better to take time and think everything over calmly.”