By Andrew Hood
Paolo Bettini sees his best chance to end his winless streak that dates back to last year’s world championships in Sunday’s second stage of the Giro d’Italia, a race into Agrigento that traces the course from the 1994 worlds.
The final 13.2km of the 207km stage from Cerfalù to Agrigento covers the circuit used for the 1994 worlds and the reigning two-time world champ can’t think of a better place to notch his first win of the year.
“Agrigento will be a good opportunity for victory,” Bettini said. “I haven’t won this year and I’m really motivated to be racing in the Giro with the rainbow jersey. Last year I couldn’t manage a (Giro) win, so I hope to do it this year.”
Bettini, 34, has struggled this spring with health problems and a nasty crash that left him with a cracked rib, but said he’s back in fighting form after a strong ride to ninth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“At Liège, I could feel the legs getting to back to where I like,” Bettini said Thursday in a press conference. “I’m in better shape now than I was at last year’s Giro. I’m really excited to get a win. I hope it comes in the first five days.”
Bettini said his Quick Step team will be keen to put down a good ride in Saturday’s opening time trial to keep him within striking distance of capturing the maglia rosa using time bonuses.
“I’d like to be within 40 seconds of the top team and I think it would take a day and a half to ride into the jersey with bonuses,” Bettini said. “It depends on who has the jersey. We’re not a team to control the race, but rather to win stages.”
Betttini called Gilberto Simoni the favorite for overall victory, yet said this year’s edition could become the “Giro of youth” if such riders as Vicenzo Nibali, Riccardo Riccò and Giovanni Visconti can live up to expectations.