By Andrew Hood
Two of Italy’s biggest stars are on the mend and hope to be back at their best in time for major upcoming goals.
Two-time world champ Paolo Bettini is skipping both Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallone due to a broken rib suffered in last week’s Vuelta al País Vasco while Daniele Bennati will finally make his debut with Liquigas following a lengthy recovery from a knee injury.
Battered and bruised following a nasty crash that left him with a fractured rib, Bettini vows to race Liège-Bastogne-Liège next weekend. The “Cricket” is set to race this week’s Giro del Trentino (April 22-25) with hopes of being able to save what’s been a washout classics campaign.
“I preferred to opt for this change in my program as I want to take part in the Liège. La Doyenne is the race that launched me, I have a special connection with this race,” Bettini said in a team communiqué. “In agreement with the team, I’ve decided to take part in the Giro del Trentino, hoping to get myself back into the shape I was in before my fall and to go on to have a good Liège.”
Instead of tackling the entire Ardennes week, Bettini will head to the calmer roads of the Trentino stage race in northern Italy with hopes of regaining his strong form that saw him score a second and third at the Basque tour before crashing.
Bettini, 34, underwent intense physical therapy sessions and put in his first long training rides Friday and Saturday. A team official said Bettini is now complaining of pain in his left hip as his position has changed due to the injury, but remains hopeful for a recover ahead of Liège.
Bennati, meanwhile, is finally hoping to wear his Liquigas jersey in a race for the first time this season.
The Italian sprinter hasn’t raced since last year’s Vuelta a España and was scheduled to start Sunday’s Giro d’Oro ahead of the Trentino race later this week to hone his form in time for the Giro d’Italia next month.
Bennati, 27, saw his ambitious spring calendar undercut by lateral ligament inflammation in his left knee.
“I’m keen to race again and I’ve got the Giro d’Italia in my sights,” Bennati said in a team communiqué. “I’m curious and excited about this debut. My season is only just starting now and I want to make my mark. I’m still not 100 percent on form and my legs still need to cover a few more miles. But I’m trying to prepare myself in the best way possible for the Giro d’Italia.”
Bennati’s last race was his victorious sprint in the final stage of the 2007 Vuelta. Although he donned his new Liquigas jersey at the team presentation, he won’t wear it in a race until this weekend.