Reigning world champion Paolo Bettini will spearhead the Italian team's bid to keep the coveted rainbow jersey in Italian hands at the world road race cycling championships in Varese, Italy September 28.
Bettini, a recent two-stage winner at the Tour of Spain, leads a mixed nine-man team which includes climbers such as Damiano Cunego and sprinters like Luca Paolini.
Italy coach Franco Ballerini has no place in the team, however, for Danilo Di Luca, last year's Tour of Italy champion who sat out a three-month doping ban earlier this year.
Bettini, who lost his Olympic road race crown in Beijing to Spaniard Samuel Sanchez, has the chance to win a hat-trick of victories at the men's road race and is likely to be given unflinching support.
Ballerini said it was no easy job picking the team: "It's a special year, what with the championships being held in Italy. Paolo (Bettini) has the chance to make a little bit of cycling history."
Paolo Bettini, Andrea Tonti, Matteo Tosatto, Damiano Cunego, Marzio Bruseghin, Alessandro Ballan, Davide Rebellin, Luca Paolini, Gabriele Bosision.
Former world champion Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert will spearhead Belgium's bid for the world road race championships' rainbow jersey later this month.
Both riders are among a strong nine-man team, announced by the Belgian cycling league (RLVB) Friday, which also includes tyro Greg Van Avermaet and Tour of Flanders champion Stijn Devolder.
Boonen is one of several top riders hoping to come out top on the road race course - and will likely have extra motivation.
Since then, 2005 world champion Boonen appears to have knuckled down, winning two stages at the ongoing Tour of Spain. However it remains to be seen if he is better suited to the Varese course, which features two climbs that will be raced a total of 15 times each, than the more versatile Gilbert.
"Gilbert and Boonen will both have the status of 'protected' riders for our team, even though we don't have a de facto leader," said Laurent De Backer, the RLVB president. "It will all depend on who has the better legs on the day."
Mario Aerts, Tom Boonen, Stijn Devolder, Kevin De Weert, Philippe Gilbert, Maxime Monfort, Nick Nuyens, Greg Van Avermaet and Jurgen Van Goolen.
Alternates: Dominique Cornu, Bert Dewaele, Jurgen Van den Broeck, Johan Vansummeren, Maarten Wijnants.
Recent Tour of Britain winner Geoffroy Lequatre and Tour de France stage winner Sylvain Chavanel are hoping to lead the French team to victory in Italy.
Road race: Stephane Auge, Sandy Casar, Sylvain Chavanel, John Gadret, Christophe Le Mevel, Geoffroy Lequatre, Amael Moinard, Jerome Pineau, Nicolas Vogondy. Time-trial: Sylvain Chavanel, Jerome Coppel.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008