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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

91st Tour de France - July 3-25, 2004

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In action
Photo: © Quick-Step Davitamon

California Dreamin' - The Paolo Bettini Diary 2004

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. For the 2004 Tour de France, Bettini is back on Cyclingnews with his exclusive English-language diary.

Stage 3 - July 6: Waterloo - Wasquehal, 210 km

A first look

Hey friends at Cyclingnews!

I'm writing you from Cambrai, where we are waiting for tomorrow's team time trial. The Tour has just started last Saturday, but it seems like I've already been riding all of my life!

So as you've seen, I've got the maillot pois and it's a beautiful thing! I've already had the maillot pois when I won the stage into Dax. I hope that even this year the maillot pois brings me a lot of luck, and then I can keep it in the team and pass it to Richard Virenque.

So far in the beginning of the Tour, my guardian angel hasn't been so close to me. In fact, today I was in a crash and I smashed my right knee and now I'm in the hotel writing this with an ice-pack on my knee. Hopefully it's only a bad bruise...

If I have to say so, a lot of things have already happened in this Tour so far. To start with, Mayo is already out of the race for the general classification. He paid for the nervousness in the peloton leading up to the first pavé sector and crashed. In the end, he lost almost four minutes. It was a big blow for the Spanish rider who was a favorite for the Tour. But I'm sure he won't lose his desire to race at this year's Tour and as soon as the roads start to climb, Mayo will be away on his own.

I have to talk about the super strength of our Tom Boonen, who's had mechanical problems in the last two sprints right when he's delivered maximum force to the pedals. Today Tom showed with his fourth place that he is certainly the real deal. In the first few stages in Belgium, Tom has also had to deal with the Belgian media who've followed him everywhere. But Tom has shown he can keep his focus and not let the attention distract him. He has a big future in the sprints, just watch and see.

So in the meantime, it's full gas with the spectacle they call the Tour de France and I'm just waiting for the stages where I've underlined some points in red in my 'road book'. What are they? I can't reveal them to you yet, otherwise bye-bye surprise.

Ci sentiamo!