While the Squadra Azzurra will be at the start, the Italian team has amassed a talented and ego-filled lineup that guarantees an implosion before the finish. With a course that befits a classics rider, the Italian squad includes such strong men like Paolo Bettini, Daniolo Di Luca, Filippo Pozzato, and Luca Paolini. These men are known for a lot of things, but self sacrifice is not one of them. Quick Step could not get Paolo Bettini to swallow his pride and work for Tom Boonen, why should that happen now?
Even Director, Franco Ballerini sets up the potential infighting by not fully declaring a leader by saying “The road will determine the strongest.”
Ballerini also brings home the prodigal son Davide Rebellin. Rebellin is the one who left his country to seek citizenship in Argentina in order to get a shot at the Rainbow Jersey. Do you think that after coming home he will be content to ride tempo or chase down a break for Bettini or Di Luca? Me neither.
The only time in recent memory that the Italians were able to put egos aside was in 2002 when Mario Cipollini was having a super year. The course suited a sprinter and Mario was truly the king. In a moment of clarity, the team was picked and built around Mario.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Squadra Azzurra. I generally pull for them once the Americans are out of contention. But I think the only solace Italians will have this year is when an Italian name wins the championship. Fabian Cancellara.