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Italian Championships - CN
Genova, Italy, June 26-July 1, 2007
By Gregor Brown
The Italian national championships, La Settimana Tricolore, events are all centered around the home of navigator Cristoforo Colombo, Genova. Paolo Bettini won last year's elite men's road title, although he no longer wears the coveted jersey having claimed the world championships rainbow jersey three months later.
Following on from yesterday's Time Trial championship, today in Diano Marina the elite 'without contracts' championship (163 km). The women will then contest their road races in Varazze tomorrow, which is appropriately known as la città delle donne (city of women). The juniors will race 72.7 km and the elite 113.7 km.
Hot favourites include defending champion Marzio Bruseghin, 2005 winner Marco Pinotti and youngster Vincenzo Nibali. The latter two have used the Eindhoven Time Trial to hone their form for a chance at taking Bruseghin's jersey. All three showed well in the Giro d'Italia, Bruseghin put the Tricolore in the spotlight by winning the Oropa mountain time trail, Pinotti spent four days in the leader's Maglia Rosa and Nibali had a stint in the Maglia Bianca of best young rider.
On June 29 in Bolano the juniors will have their road race (120 km), with the under-23 in Lavagna (163.5 km) the following day with the grand finale, the men's road race, on Sunday in Genova. The elite men will contest a 260-kilometre race, including a city circuit parcours of 14.7 km.
The elite men will roll away from the Italian Riviera towards Morigallo where they will start two 40.4 km circuits, which include the stiff Passo Dei Giovi (472m). This should help form an escape of hopeful strongmen as the race heads back to the Riviera and on to Genova's closing circuits.
There will be no time for a dish of trofiette al pesto with riders like Riccardo Riccò, Danilo Di Luca and Damiano Cunego all gunning for the winner's trophy. They will have to dethrone two-time Italian champ Bettini on the 10 laps of the 14.7 km closing circuit in Genova. Each loop takes in the wall leading to Piazza Carignano (km 6) and the lighter rise of Via Albaro (km 10.2).
"The one race I would like to win is Sunday, July 1, in Genova," noted 25 year-old Cunego last week to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
The final kilometre to Piazza XX Settembre is a light rise of 12 metres and will prevent a bunch sprint like that which brought Enrico Gasparotto glory in 2005. 'Gaspa' will be back this year but with two years of experience under his belt, including a stint in the Maglia Rosa at this year's Giro. Roman Alessandro Proni will bring good form as well as confidence from his Tour de Suisse Stage 3 win. The young outsider could steal the show if he's involved in a small break.
Daniele Bennati and Alessandro Ballan will team up as they did in the Spring Classics. The circuits would be a great place for Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Ballan to make a bid for victory in the final 40 km but if the race stays in a small group then it will be a chance for Bennati to turn a string of second places in Switzerland to an important sprint win.
Experienced campaigners to watch will be Gilberto Simoni and Stefano Garzelli. The latter won two stages of the 2007 Giro by attacking in demanding finales, including the solo win into Lienz. His big motor and sprint should see him as a contender.
Bettini will be very tough to displace, as these types of circuit parcours seem fit for his attacking style. Earlier this month he sent out a warning shot, stating: "I will do everything to be at the start of the Italian Championships and honour the race and the Maglia Tricolore."