Tuesday evening, we rode down to the industrial zone for his debut training session, arriving a little after starting time. The perfect evening, 34 degrees, and not a breath of wind, the only noise was the buzz of a motor scooter coming down the road towards us, and sitting comfortably in its draft were 15 odd budding Bettini’s aged 9 to 13, all lapping it out behind the scooter, round and round the block. Unfortunately the scooter was too fast for the other 15, who were aged from 5 years up, and they sat behind an older rider, round and round the industrial estate each pedal revolution inching them closer to the rainbow jersey and the centre pages of International Cycle Sport. The commitment to the development of young riders in Italy should be closely watched by many developing cycling nations. New Zealand’s national team often get a big slice of the sporting funds, come grants time, but what is being done to foster young talent. Crema population 35,000 has a major youth development programme, and each weekend there is a race on with up to 100 starters in all grades in the greater region. The lyrca is all brand new and ablaze with sponsors names, as the club supplies the total package including helmet and shoes. Should you want it, the bike is also available free of charge. My sponsor, back in the International Cycle Sport days were poor Antonio and Helen, and every punctured tubular bought tears to their eyes I’m sure, not mention the smashed wheels and frames. I got Felix settled in behind the scooter and a lap later he had that grin so big that he should have been standing in the top step of the podium, arms held high wearing the Rainbow jersey. After 15 years of marriage, Nicky thought her days of hearing about, dropping him, attacking him, big ring this, Bora wheels that, were coming to an end, but now Felix rides through the door Tuesday and Thursday nights with a new vocabulary derived from the language of a generation of future World Champions.
It’s little wonder Paolo managed the double.