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California Dreamin' - The Paolo Bettini Diary 2004

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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. The Quick.Step-Davitamon rider had a fantastic 2003 season, winning his second consecutive World Cup, this time with three wins in one season - a feat unequalled by any other rider - plus an Italian championship and the world number one ranking. Bettini is back on Cyclingnews in 2004 with his exclusive English-language diary.

My Giro podium

Italy, May 16, 2004

Hi Cyclingnews readers,

So last week I started training again after some recovery time. But I didn't stop riding; I went for some easy rides with friends and of course, I was in Gistel for the final criterium to honor Johan Museeuw. But from last Monday, I officially started training again. I've done some three hour rides at a pretty easy pace with my usual training partners. The big races coming up are still pretty far away, but it's very important to carefully build-up and not do too much too quickly. My first race is slated for May 31 in the Tour of Germany, a tough stage race that will help me get ready for the second part of my season. But for the moment, during the afternoon, I've been at home in my armchair watching the Giro d'Italia.

Last week, I went to the finish of the Giro in Pontremoli, not too far from my house in Tuscany. For an Italian like me, the Giro is always a big deal and I hope to return to race it again soon, hopefully next year. I've really enjoyed watching the stage, especially the win of Damiano Cunego, a young rider who certainly has a future on two wheels. But this year at the Giro, I see as the favorite Cunego's teammate Simoni, followed by Garzelli and Popovych. I think the big challenge will be between these four riders.

The other Sunday at Riparbella, our daughter Veronica was officially baptized and is now officially a part of our community. It was a beautiful day and all of my family and my wife Monica's family were there as well as all of our friends. Among the crowd, it was hard to miss my teammates and friends Zanini, Bramati, Nardello and Paolini who were there with their respective families.

Veronica's godfather and godmother? Naturally it was Luca Paolini and his wife Elena. Their little daughter Gaia also helped; in fact she wanted to do everything! So Veronica was baptized by Don Bruno, the parish priest of Riparbella and Don Antonio, Vicar of the Diocese of Pisa, both of whom are big cycling fans. It was really a nice ceremony that we finished up with a glass of "vin santo" in the church Sacristy.

Then on Saturday, May 8, at the Hotel Hermitage in Marina di Bibbona, my fan club presented a really great new project I want to tell you about. Mr. Calmassi, the head of my fan club, is a very dynamic guy and he's come up with a project for a new sports center that will be named after me! This will be built in a 75,000 square meter track in Bibbona (Livorno) and will have a ciclodromo with 2km of bike paths, so young kids can ride in a protected environment. There will be artificial hills, dressing rooms, a gym, tennis courts and a calcetto [soccer field] and a snack bar. This project that my fan club is working on has made me very proud and I hope it can go forward to help young cyclists develop in a safe environment.

Along with the sports center, Mauro Calamassi also presented a project to build 50km of bike paths from Castiglioncello to Castagneto Carducci, inside "Parco Aurelia", which runs along the SS 1 Via Aurelia along the Tuscan coast where I live in the lower val di Cecina region. Both of these are great ideas and I will keep you updated on their progress.

OK, well, bye for now!

A presto,