Grieving Bettini Wins Giro di Lombardia
The last month has been an emotional roller coaster for Paolo Bettini (Quick Step). The Olympic road race champion became world road race champion on September 24, only to have his brother Sauro die in a traffic accident about a week later. Bettini stopped training and considering retiring, but his family persuaded him to continue racing. Bettini followed their advice, and today, he pedaled to victory in front of them and, he believes, his brother. The Quick Step man soloed away from the field to win the Giro di Lombardia in 6:08:06. Championship of Zurich winner Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) outsprinted Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) for second at 0:08.
Thierry Marichal (Cofidis) made the first attack, but Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) and Diego Caccia (Barloworld) made the first move that mattered. At 34 km, the pair led the field by 2:20, when Andrea Pagoto (Panaria), James Perry (Barloworld), Yuri Metlushenko (Team LPR), and Diego Nosotti (Selle Italia) began to chase. Six km later, the escapees? lead had narrowed to 2:06 over the chasers but had lengthened to 4:55 over the peloton.
On the ascent of San Fedele d?Intelvi, Perry and Pagoto dropped Metlushenko and Nosotti. At the summit the pair was 2:18 behind the leaders, who were 12:10 ahead of the peloton. At the base of the descent, Totschnig and Caccia led the bunch by 13:05. Perry and Pagoto bridged up to Totschnig and Caccia. The quartet?s lead maxed out at 13:15 at 106 km.
Rabobank, Milram, Cofidis, and CSC began to drive the peloton. Attrition took its toll on the break, which saw its lead narrow to 3:44 at the base of the Madonna del Ghisallo (193 km). On the climb, Bettini accelerated and formed a chase group that consisted of himself, Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Frank Schleck (CSC), Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Sanchez, Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas), and Ricardo Ricco (Saunier Duval). The chasers reeled in Totschnig and Pagoto just before the summit. Another move by Bettini reduced the lead group to himself, Rebellin, Schleck, Boogerd, and Di Luca.
On the descent, the quintet forged a 20-second lead over a chase group that consisted of Sanchez, Pagoto, Ricco, Totschnig, Wegmann, Cristian Moreni (Cofidis), and Matteo Carrara (Lampre). With 28 km left, the two groups merged.
On the Civiglio, Bettini accelerated and dropped Totschnig, Ricco, and Pagoto. With 17 km left, Di Luca attacked. Bettini?s counter put him in the lead. At the summit, he was 0:05 ahead of Wegmann. The German caught the world champion just after the base of the descent.
Sanchez, Boogerd, Rebellin, Schleck, Moreni, and Carrara pursued the pair. On the San Fermo di Battaglia, the day?s last climb, Bettini dropped the Gerolsteiner man, whom he led by 0:15 at the summit. The chasers were 0:12 further back.
The pursuers made inroads in Bettini?s lead but could not wipe it out. With two km left, Sanchez bridged up to Wegmann and pipped him in the sprint. Bettini, however, crossed the finish line alone, in tears, paying tribute to his brother.