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California Dreamin' - The Paolo Bettini Diary 2004

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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. 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, October 4, 2004

A big opportunity lost

Hi all my friends on Cyclingnews,

Bettini early in the race at the world championships
Photo ©: AFP
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It's the Monday after the World Championships and I knew I would be writing about something, but certainly NOT dropping out. I thought I might be writing about winning, or a tough battle, or even a good place on the podium, but never that I would be forced to abandon. I really believe I understand cycling and I've rarely ever given up in my entire career. But this time, there was really nothing I could have done differently. My knee just hurt too much. Every time I pedaled, it was like a lightning bolt was going through my right leg. I ended up pedaling around the Verona circuit three times with pretty much one leg. Nonetheless, I tried to hang in there; I told myself that the pain would probably go away after a few laps, but there was nothing doing. So I just stopped at the team box and let me tell you, I felt like I was boiling with rage. But otherwise I was feeling great… I don't want to take anything away from the guys that were on the podium, but it seems to me like a golden opportunity that just disappeared in smoke.

In any case, I'll have a lot of great memories from the World's; all the tifosi who were supporting me… that was special. You did a great job!

On the last lap before I retired, I got goosebumps from all the cheers and applause. I was incredibly upset, sad but you made me forget for a little while my own drama. Thanks a lot.

Plus I have to say that I will never forget the solidarity of the peloton. A lot of riders came to me to see how I was feeling and no-one attacked to try and take advantage of my situation. That made me happy. It shows that the other riders respect me. Last but not least, I will never forget the third place of my best friend Paolini. It was a huge deal even for me… you all know how close we are. Yesterday I understood the way he feels when he helps me win. Part of me was on the podium with Luca. What a race! I think it will take him a few days to realize what he's achieved. And to think he wanted to abandon with me. I told him to get back in the race and go for it. I saw that he was in great form and thought he would have a shot at the podium. I hope that for Paolini, this podium spot at the World's represents for me what Liège-Bastogne-Liège meant to me in 2000. It's a watershed point in your career, when you discover another dimension in yourself. I know Luca has a big future.

So now I'm at home with an icepack on my right knee. Sunday evening, it was red with some bruising from hitting the car door. The pain had subsided so that is encouraging. The only thing I can do now is to wait a while for the pain and inflammation to go down. At this point, I doubt that my knee pain will compromise my ride in Paris-Tours next Sunday… we'll see. So for now, all I can do is to say goodbye and thanks for reading and thank you for all the messages of support you've sent to my website.