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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

California Dreamin' - The Paolo Bettini Diary 2003

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In action
Photo: © Quick-Step Davitamon

He's from California, down near the beach, but this guy's no surfer dude. Paolo Bettini is from La California, near Cecina on the Tuscan coast in Italy. Bettini is a compact, power packed explosive puncher of a rider who conquered the World Cup title last year for Mapei-Quick Step with his exciting, dynamic style. Bettini learned his trade as the right-hand man for Michele Bartoli, but emerged from his fellow Tuscan's shadow in 2000 with a great win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Bettini repeated at L-B-L last year and has now moved on from the glorious but now sadly defunct Mapei team to the new classics super-squad, Quick-Step - Davitamon. Cyclingnews is honored to welcome the likeable "fuoriclasse" Paolo Bettini as a diarist for 2003.

Getting rolling with Quick-Step at Tour of the Med and Het Volk

Racing at Het Volk
Photo: © Sirotti
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Finally between racing and training, I've found enough time to sit down and write up my first diary for Cyclingnews. You may realize that between the first race of the season at the G.P. Costa degli Etruschi and today, I haven't been home very often. But that's not too bad when the good results come soon with my new team Quick-Step - Davitamon.

My win in the GC at the Giro del Mediterraneo was an enormous satisfaction for me and the team and a major repayment for all the efforts we have made so far to be ready for the racing season. Even if, to be sincere, with all the placings I've had so far this season, I think I should have had another win already. In the 14 races I've ridden so far this year, I've placed in the top five 11 times! I don't have a win yet in a one day race, that's the kind of win I like the most.

But I'm still very satisfied with how things are going so far this season; it shows that I did a good job with my winter training. This year, I changed my training plan and tried to work more on my endurance, to build up more miles than in previous years. So it's normal that I'm lacking that something extra in the final stages of the races. But we're only at the beginning of March, and my key objectives for the 2003 season are still far away.

Last weekend, we rode Het Volk and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, the first important tests in the northern classics for me and for the team. Many people are saying that we have a kind of 'dream team' for the classics. We showed it in Het Volk for sure! For the first time, I rode with new teammates that up until now, I've only ridden with in our training camps. Riders like Boonen, Crestsken, Knaven are guys I've always raced against and so the first northern classics have been really good to get to know how we work together; how the communication and focus happens in our squad.

Already, before this weekend, I was sure that there wouldn't be any problems at Quick-Step - Davitamon. In the Giro del Mediterraneo, we showed a strong cohesion in the team; with riders the caliber of Vandenbroucke and Virenque who sacrificed themselves to help me win the race. After the stages, back at the hotel, the vibe was always relaxed and we had a good time getting to know each other. With Davide Bramati, we knew already that he was ready with a quick and clever phrase, while Frank and Richard have a lot of personality who are good to be around. I have to say that this new team is one I am happy to be a part of. We have a lot of excellent young riders too; Van Goolen, Nuyens and co. are very talented and really want to learn the ropes of pro cycling from the older, more experienced riders.

When Johan speaks, for example, everybody listens to what he has to say, trying to learn any little secret from him. He is such a charismatic rider; a real icon of cycling. Even though we have some language barriers on the team, it's great to see riders from a lot of different countries talking around the dinner table. One guy will be speaking Italian, another English, another in French and we all get along. I have only one real problem with this; I really can't understand Flemish. But who knows, if I ride well in the races in Flanders, maybe I'll pick it up!