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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.

Italy, July 28, 2004

Mission accomplished at Le Tour; Athens awaits

Hi all my friends from Cyclingnews,

Well, the Tour is finished and I'm finally back home for a few days until I have to head up to Hamburg for the first summer World Cup in Hamburg, the HEW Cyclassics. For Quick.Step, it was a fantastic Grande Boucle. We won four stages, the last one with Tom Boonen on the Champs Elysees, as well as dominating the chase for maglia a pois of best climber, first with me and then with Virenque, who took his seventh straight win as best climber, a record. Plus we were fifth in Team GC, not a bad result at all.

What more could we have wanted? Well, I certainly wanted to win another stage that would have upped our stage win total even more. But nonetheless, I'm happy with my Tour de France. The first week, I was sprinting like a fool on every GPM for points. Virenque and the team asked me to help by protecting this jersey early on. Mission accomplished and when Richard took over the jersey after over 200km away on Quatorze Julliet, he showed why Virenque is still the most popular rider in France.

After Richard took over the maglia pois, my race changed. I tried a few times for a stage win and in two of them, the winner's bouquet got away from me. For the last 10 days in the Tour de France, I rode looking ahead towards the races in August. I'll be in Hamburg this Sunday, then San Sebastian, the Olympics and the Championship of Zurigo.

These are all important objectives for me now. Everyone is waiting for Bettini to show himself, so it's useless to try and hide. To go for another World Cup won't be easy, but it wasn't last year either. After San Sebastian we'll know a lot more; then it's the Olympics.

What can I say about this? Everyone knows that I've been looking forward to the race in Athens on August 14th for a long time. The most important thing will be to show up in great form and not make any mistakes in the race. But if someone is better than me that day, it won't be a really big deal. Sure, you can win races, but more often you lose them!

Ciao a tutti,