PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Among all of the fuss and hoop-la that the introduction of the ProTour has generated, it is been easy to forget that one of the most hotly tipped contenders for the ProTour individual title has barely figured in the series so far at all. Paolo Bettini has been struggling with a viral infection since the beginning of the season, and it was only in Sunday's Amstel Gold race that the Italian finally began to feel that his form was coming and his illness was going the other way.
The Quick Step rider finished 37th at Amstel - not great by his standards but a positive sign given his problems so far this year. "I've had to stop three times this season and I've been taking antibiotics for 35 days. I've become a real specialist in them, I've taken four sorts," Bettini told La Dernire Heure yesterday, as he looked forward to lining up at Flche Wallonne today.
"I felt good and my legs felt good at Amstel," the Italian added, although he downplayed his chances of featuring at Flche. "Even the two years I won at Lige I didn't do that well at Flche. The Mur de Huy is not a good hill for me, it's too hard, but it will still be a good test. I don't think I can win at Lige either, but finishing in the first five or 10 would be a victory of sorts. After that everything will be focused on the Giro."
Bettini admitted that he had been in a strange situation this year in that he has been able to shelter behind the great results obtained by team-mate Tom Boonen. "Two years ago I won three World Cup races and allowed others on the team to shelter behind those. This time it's my turn. Tom has confirmed that he is not just a sprinter, but a great rider packed with class," said Bettini.