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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Italy already scored Friday in Doha with a world championship title in the junior women’s race. Its next aim is to rip apart the elite men’s race in the desert Sunday and produce a small group sprint for Elia Viviani or Giacomo Nizzolo.
Elisa Balsamo won after 74.5 kilometers Friday. The men race 259.2 kilometers with the first leg covering 150 kilometers and the remainder on the $15 billion artificial Pearl island.
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“In the case of strong winds, it’ll be difficult,” head director Davide Cassani said. “Otherwise, it risks being an annoying race.
Italy is formidable, even if not the favorite. The Squadra Azzurra brought its most robust men to Doha. Cassani wants to see them take control of the race on the barren plains north of the petroleum-rich city. If it explodes into echelons, he wants Daniel Oss, Daniele Bennati, Manuel Quinziato, and Jacopo Guarnieri to take control.
“With the wind, it could blow up into echelons and leave 30 to 40 riders to fight for the win,” Cassani said. “Also, the heat is going to take its toll.”
If it does blow up, then Cassani will need one of his leaders, Viviani or Nizzolo, in one of the leading echelons. Or he could count on Matteo Trentin, Sonny Colbrelli, or Filippo Pozzato. He still needs to decide the final nine cyclists from the 10 he brought to Qatar.
“I have the fitness and experience,” Pozzato told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper this week. “I am motivated for the worlds like few others. I know how to race with the wind in my face and I can also help in a sprint. If a small group forms, I’m also dangerous.”
“I welcome the wind,” said Trentin, who won Paris-Tours 2015 and two Tour de France stages in 2013 and 2014. “We know very well how to handle ourselves. If there are echelons, we need to take control of the situation.”
Italy’s last world title came thanks to Alessandro Ballan. He shot free in the final four kilometers to win on the team’s home soil in Varese. Due to doping scandals that followed, his gold medal did not shine so bright.
Viviani, who recently won the omnium gold medal in the Olympics, could be Italy’s best option to win another worlds. The team Sky rider has beaten all the top sprinters at one time or another. If not, Italy has Nizzolo. He won the Giro del Piemonte two weeks ago and the Coppa Bernocchi a month ago.
“We have a solid team, with two top sprinters,” Cassani added. “We have clear ideas on what we want to do and our sprint train is strong. Keep in mind that the first leg could see the race explode before the circuits and the great rivalry between the nations like France, Australia, Germany, and Belgium could work against them.”