No Questions in Italian World’s Team

World championships team controversy, treachery, and intrigue used to be Italian territory, but Italian national team coach Franco Ballerini seems to have miraculously put an end to all of that. As it was in 2002, when Mario Cipollini was the odds-on favorite for the jersey on the sprinter’s course at Zolder, Belgium, the Italian squad seems 100 percent united behind Alessandro Petacchi. And why not? He’s the top dog sprinter in Italy and the world now, and as the boys on Discovery will tell you, personal ambition is fruitless when you’re working for a teammate whose skills suit the course far better than yours.

But with such a dominant leaders on courses tailor-made for their skills, Ballerini’s job in building team unity alive has been rendered much easier than in the past, when an embarrassment of riches—Bartoli, Bettini, Rebellin, Tafi, and Ballerini himself—almost guaranteed infighting on more traditional World Championship courses.

Ballerini is enough of a professional to realize that a world’s win isn’t a done deal though, citing what he calls a “McEwen corner” just a few hundred yards from the line in Madrid. That little detail has the potential to derail Petacchi’s azurri train, and tip the scales in favor of McEwen’s bob-and-weave sprinting style. Time will tell.