By Andrew Hood
Paolo Bettini hasn’t won a World Cup race all season long, but he’s poised to claim his third consecutive globe in this weekend’s Giro di Lombardia in Italy.
The Olympic champion finished sixth in Sunday’s Paris-Tours, enough to slip 13 points ahead of arch-rival Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and tighten the grip on what will be the final World Cup competition as the series will be eliminated in next year’s Pro Tour.
Bettini now holds a lead with 340 points after Rebellin could only finish 13th in the bunch sprint Sunday on Avenue Grammont and slipped to second at 327. The Quick Step rider knows the ball is in his court, leaving Rebellin with few options except to attack.
Course changes in the season’s finale also favor Bettini, with new climbs added to the Lombardia route designed to make for a harder race.
“The new course is hard,” Bettini told French newspaper L’Equipe. “The important thing will be to present in the ascent of the Ghisallo, 40km from the finish. That’s where it’ll all play out.”
Typically, riders who’ve scored one or more victories have used the momentum to clinch the 10-round World Cup series. This year, Bettini has yet to win, but he finished second three straight weekends in August to put pressure on Rebellin, the double-winner of Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Newly crowned world champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) 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.
Freire – who was third at Paris-Tours — has already admitted his chances are dim, but promises to race Saturday “to do something, not just show off my jersey.”
HS runners DQ’d for ‘LiveStrong’ wrist bands
“LiveStrong” doesn’t add up to “run fast,” at least for one high school official in Virginia.
More than two dozen high school track athletes were disqualified from an Oct. 6 event in Virginia Beach, Va., after an administrator ruled Lance Armstrong’s popular “LiveStrong” wristbands amounted to jewelry, banned under district rules.
Some 26 athletes were wearing the yellow plastic bans and were subsequently disqualified from the track event, according to a report in the The Virginia Pilot newspaper.
“It’s the stupidest rule I’ve ever heard,” said Lanny Doan, one of the high school coaches. “We’re talking about a rubber band. It’s not going to harm anyone.”
Some 12 million of the wrist bands have been sold nationwide to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The wrist bands have become a cultural phenomenon, with big-time sports stars and even presidential candidates sporting the plastic bands.
The wrist bands, however, fell afoul with school officials in Virginia who have banned all except religious or medical jewelry from high school track events. The Virginia Pilot reported high officials notified coaches by e-mailed prior to Wednesday’s with reminders that the rule would be enforced.
Several athletes won their heats but were later disqualified after wearing the wrist bands. One of the school’s girl’s squad lost out on the team competition because of the ruling.
“Basically, we lost because of a cancer-support bracelet,” Ocean Lakes coach Mike Nestor told the newspaper. “This is a friendly sport. I’d rather be told kids had to take them off before they run than told ‘gotcha’ afterward.” Rebellin won’t race mid-week semi-classic
Davide Rebellin won’t race in mid-week semi-classics in Italy to be fresh for Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia. Rebellin surrendered the overall World Cup lead to Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) in Sunday’s Paris-Tours and won’t race the long Milano-Torino race on Wednesday.
Big names lining up for season’s finale
Race organizers are drawing some big names for the season’s last major European races in what’s called the “Trittico d’Autunno,” starting with the 89th Milano-Torino on Wednesday, the 91st Giro del Piemonte on Thursday and the 98th Giro di Lombardia, the decisive stop in the 10-round World Cup series.
While Davide Rebellin announced he won’t race, top Italian names lining up for the 199km Milano-Torino include defending champion Mirko Celestino and his Saeco teammate Damiano Cunego, Ivan Basso and Michele Bartoli (CSC), Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola), Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo), Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile), Franco Pellizotti (Alessio-Bianchi), Emanuele Sella (Panaria) and Michele Scarponi (Domina Vacanze). Top foreign stars include Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) and Igor Astarloa (Lampre).
Headlining Thursday’s Giro del Piemonte include Cadel Evans and Paolo Savoldelli (T-Mobile), Fabio Baldato and Francesco Chicchi (Fassa Bortolo) and Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner). Lara goes T-Mobile
Spanish rider Oscar Sevilla won’t be alone on T-Mobile next season. The German squad has signed Francisco José Lara to a one-year contract and is the second Spanish rider after Sevilla that T-Mobile has signed for next season.
Lara, 27, rode this season with Costa de Almería-Paternina this season, but raced alongside Jan Ullrich in Coast-Bianchi during the troubled 2003 season.