Bettini wins men's world road title

Angry Italian answers critics

Italy's Paolo Bettini was crowned world champion for the second year in a row after winning the men's race at the world road championships in Stuttgart on Sunday - then promised revenge.

Bettini, who rides for the Quick Step team, dominated a five-man group at the end of the 267km race to leave Alexandr Kolobnev of Russia fighting for second place with Germany's Stefan Schumacher. Kolobnev took the silver medal while Schumacher claimed the bronze.

Luxembourg's Franck Schleck finished in fourth place just ahead of Australian Cadel Evans, a runner-up in this year's Tour de France.

After a stressful week, double world champion Bettini made a gesture pretending to fire a gun as he crossed the line and later said it was his way of shooting back at his critics. Bettini was in tears after his victory, having announced on the eve of the race he intends to sue German television station ZDF for accusing him of providing former teammate Patrik Sinkewitz with doping products. And Bettini only had the all-clear to defend his crown on Friday after a bid by organisers to bar him from the competition, because he would not sign an anti-doping agreement to provide a compulsory blood sample.

"He came, he saw, he conquered," said UCI president Pat McQuaid during the winner's press conference. "Any cyclist who can win a race after the pressure he has been under is a classic and magnificent rider. I have nothing but the utmost respect for that."

Bettini becomes the first rider to defend the prestigious rainbow jersey since compatriot Gianni Bugno achieved the feat in 1992.

While Bettini was basking in the glory of his achievement, the anger at the criticism laid at his door was bubbling just below the surface.

"I feel angry," he replied when asked how he felt. "I was angry at the start of the race and I am angry now about the allegations made against me. I will not let anyone damage my career after all the sacrifices I have made.

"This year we have learned in cycling that he who makes a mistake must suffer the consequences and so some people outside the sport will discover that is also true. I will enjoy the moment, but I want to see what can be done about the people who have tried to damage my career."

But despite his second consecutive world crown, Bettini said he will continue to compete for at least another year. "Someone taught me that I had to go out and fight, so I think I will be around for at least another year."

And when asked exactly who he was shooting at when he crossed the finish line, his response was ice cold. "So many people have shot at me this week that I wanted to fire back a few bullets of my own," he said. "I wasn't aiming at anyone in particular, but if anyone feels I was taking aim specifically at them, perhaps they believe I have a reason to be shooting at them."

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