By Andrew Hood
Finale to decide World Cup battle
Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia marks the final stop in the 10-round World Cup series with the fight for the overall title coming down to a showdown between Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner).
Bettini is nursing a 13-point lead over Rebellin going into the difficult Italian classic. A new course design has added some muscle to the climbs, making for what should be an exciting showdown in northern Italy.
“My strategy is to stay glued to Rebellin’s wheel,” Bettini said. “The course is more difficult than it’s been in the past, but the onus is on Rebellin. He’s the one who has to attack.”
Rebellin lost his grip on the leader’s white jersey in last weekend’s Paris-Tours when he was boxed out in the final sprint, allowing Bettini to take sixth and grab enough points to slip into the overall lead.
Rebellin is the double-winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Amstel Gold Race, but admits he’ll have a tough fight against Bettini. The World Cup is being phased out to make room for the Pro Tour in 2005, something Rebellin said will be on his mind.
“I know that I have to attack, but the harder course works in my favor,” Rebellin said. “It would be an honor to win the final World Cup. I will do everything to try to get back some points.”
Bettini hasn’t won a World Cup race all season and will have a hard time winning Saturday against such favorites as Damiano Cunego (Saeco) and Ivan Basso (CSC). He finished second in all three World Cups in August, however, to nudge closer to Rebellin and knows all he has to do is finish ahead of Rebellin to secure his third consecutive globe.
Oscar Freire (Rabobank), the newly crowned world champion, has a mathematical chance to snatch the crown, sitting third at 88 points adrift of Bettini. With a win worth 100 points, Freire would need a victory and have both Rebellin and Bettini finish out of the top 20.
Petacchi king of the roads in 2004
Sprint ace Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) ruled the roads in 2004, racking up 21 victories that included wins in both the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España.
With the 2004 racing season winding down Saturday with the Giro di Lombardia, no one’s close enough to Petacchi to challenge his hold on the season’s bragging rights.
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) is second with 19 wins on the year, but the young Belgian has already called the season to an end. Alejandro Valverde (Kelme) notched 15 wins on the season to take third on the season total while Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service) won 11 races on the year, including a record sixth Tour de France title.
Top winners in 2004
1. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA/Fassa Bortolo) 21 victories; 2. Tom Boonen (Bel/Quick Step) 19; 3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Kelme) 15; 4. Max van Heeswijk (Ned/US Postal) 13; 5. Damiano Cunego (Ita/Saeco) 12; 6. Lance Armstrong (USA/US Postal) 11; 7. Thor Hushovd (Nor/Credit Agricole 10; 8. Danilo Hondo (Ger/Gerolsteiner) 9; 9. Paolo Bettini (Ita/Quick Step), Jaan Kirsipuu (Est/AG2R) and Robbie McEwen (Aus/Lotto) – all with 8
Evans, Savoldelli in last race with T-Mobile
Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia marks the final race for T-Mobile riders Paolo Savoldelli (Italy) and Cadel Evans (Australia), who are both leaving the German team at the end of the season.
”Paolo and Cadel will be fired up to give it their all, on their last race with us,” says T-Mobile team spokesman Olaf Ludwig, who also likes Matthias Kessler’s chances. “Matse performed well at Giro di Lombardia the last two years, and his strong ride last Sunday at Paris-Tours bodes well.”
Evans was unhappy after being left off the team’s 2004 Tour de France squad and has signed on with Davitamon-Lotto to be a team leader in 2005 with hopes of finally making his Tour debut. Savoldelli, meanwhile, will ride alongside Lance Armstrong at Discovery Channel in 2005.
Belgian TV drops Museeuw
Belgian TV has pulled the plug on classics strongman Johan Museeuw, who has been working as a cycling commentator since retiring in April. But when the Lion of Flanders was handed a two-year racing ban despite leaving the sport, Belgian TV on Thursday said there’s no room for Museeuw in the TV booth. “Regardless of the prestige of his career, anyone involved in a doping case cannot be put on a pedestal as a legitimate representative of his sport,” Geert Bourgeois, the Flemish communications minister, said in the Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws. He added Museeuw won’t be welcomed back until the two-year ban has run its course.
Museeuw, along with Belgian riders Jo Planckaert and Chris Peers, were given two-year bans last week after being implicated in the Landuyt doping case involving a Belgian veterinarian charged with distributing human growth hormones.