PIC BY LIQUIGAS
A one-day specialist signing for Liquigas in the wake of Danilo Di Luca's stellar 2005 season may not seem the most enlightened of moves, but Luca Paolini's is hoping that his move to the Italian team will allow him to become more of a force in the Classics.
Paolini's prospects look good based on three factors. Firstly, he has spent a lot of time in recent seasons working for Quick Step team leader and close friend Paolo Bettini. Secondly, Di Luca has said that his main goal this season is the overall prize at the Giro and insists that he might not ride any of the Classics to win. And, thirdly, Paolini has suggested when freed of other responsibilities in the past that he can contend with the best in the season's bigger races, notably when finishing third at the Worlds in 2004 and in winning the Brabantse Pijl semi-Classic the same year.
After spending six years with Bettini, Paolini, who recently turned 30, told Tuttobiciweb at the Liquigas team launch in Milan at the weekend that he is ready to "follow my own path and take things as far as they can go, and I hope that fortune follows me in this. There are no problems between me and Paolo, we even started our training this year together, and I am convinced that nothing has changed in our relationship."
Paolini says he will be focusing on all of the major one-day events this season, but particularly on Milan-San Remo "because it is a special race". Having helped Bettini to victory in San Remo three seasons ago, Paolini believes he has the knowledge and ability to carry off the same title for Liquigas.
Another target will be the Tour of Flanders "because the winner there is always the strongest rider, and the man who shows himself to be the bravest. I hope that's me this year," he said.
Paolini's next challenge will be the slightly less intense Majorca Challenge on February 5-9. At the same time, Di Luca and fellow stage race leader Stefano Garzelli will be training at altitude in Mexico with the aim of replicating the kind of conditioning and form that carried Di Luca to the ProTour title last season.
PIC BY LIQUIGAS