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Few teams can compete with Quick Step when it comes to one-day talent, a fact backed up by the presence of the Spanish champion Juanma Garate, the Belgian champion Serge Baguet, the world champion Tom Boonen and the Olympic champion Paolo Bettini in their ranks.
The latter two, of course, are the Belgian team's two biggest stars, but a potential problem looms as both are targeting some of the same major races this season. Bettini admits that the question he has been asked more than any other in the past few weeks is how the desires of both riders will be accommodated, but the Italian insists that after three seasons working together he and Boonen have a good partnership and that he's "tranquilo" about it continuing.
Bettini told the press at this week's Quick Step presentation that he would once again be targeting races from March (Milan-San Remo) to October (Tour of Lombardy), and will be riding the Giro and Vuelta instead of the Tour de France. He stated that the two major objectives left in his career are to win the Tour of Flanders and the Worlds, both titles won last season by Boonen.
The hilly Worlds course in Austria should suit Bettini better than Boonen, and the Italian has decided to follow his now usual route into the race via the Vuelta. But Boonen has insisted that, assuming he is at 100% for Flanders, he would be "disappointed if Paolo was designated as co-leader. In every other race there is no problem between us."
One race where the pair won't have a potential clash of interests is the Giro, an event that Quick Step boss Patrick Lefvre believes Bettini can do well in overall. The Italian, though, is not so keen. "The last week of the Giro is very hard. I spent four days in the Dolomites and looked over the two key stages. The San Pellegrino stage is magnificent, but the day before's stage to Plan de Corones is mad," he told La Dernire Heure.
"The road climbs steeply for 12 kilometres and the last five kilometres are like a ski run made of earth, with a section of 24%. It's too hard. If it rains or snows it will be impossible to get up it. It's difficult enough in a car."
Consequently, Bettini is thinking less about the overall and more about winning stages and perhaps wearing the leader's jersey, especially during the first week. "The Walloon stages are ideal for that. But after that, we shall see."
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