Sometimes it’s difficult to get an interview, especially if your target is World Road Race Champion, Paolo Bettini.
He has a Quick Step entourage with him and he’s testing his new Specialized road bike for 2007. But us VeloVeritas guys are persistent, and after stalking him all afternoon I was granted just five minutes of his precious time.
Paolo’s compatriot and team mate for the race, a former Grenoble Six-day winner himself, Marco Villa, helped out with the interpreting.
When Paolo turned pro, he was initially Michele Bartoli’s right hand man in the MG-GB squad…Good times?
“Yes, at that time Michele was a big rider and I was just learning my job.
“So yes, it was a good time for me, and Michele was a great rider to learn from. We are still friendly but he has retired now of course.”
This must be your best season ever?
“It has been a good season, yes. But 2003, 2004 and 2005 were all good also with the Olympics, Liege, Zurich and Lombardy. You must look ahead to the years to come for the one past is now just another season.”
VeloVeritas were at Salzburg and witnessed your incredible win in the world Road Championships – tell us a little about that day.
“The World Championship has been a target for many years, but this is the first time it has gone to plan. On the last lap I attacked on the hill, but this was to make the sprinters suffer and to make a selection.
“I knew it was too far and the course was too fast for me to ride alone to the finish. I was sure I could win but I knew I had to split the group and lose the sprinters. Of course it worked out for me at the finish.”
Also Lombardy was a special performance…
“Yes, I have won Lombardy before, of course, but this was a very particular victory.
“The events leading-up to it with winning the Worlds and then the terrible death of my brother made it a very special, very emotional day for me.”
This is your first Six-day race, what are your impressions so far?
“Yes, it is a new world for me, very different; the first day was very strange and difficult, but each day I have been improving a little so now it is becoming interesting and exciting as I learn more and more.
Paolo admitted to being just a little concerned about all the crashes on the first night.
“Well, it is the same on the road. Remember that I am a sprinter and sometimes the finishes are very dangerous, so this [track racing] is not so bad.
And then we had to wind it up because it was massage time. Maybe the next time I get to talk to Paolo I won’t be a runner [working for the riders], and I’ll get to ask the rest of my questions.
Meanwhile, many thanks to Paolo and to Marco Villa for their time.