Italy’s Paolo Bettini ended his professional cycling career with a final victory on Sunday, winning the Milan Six-Day with partner Juan Llaneras of Spain, held in the halls of the EICMA Milan show.
Bettini crashed heavily during the opening day of racing and was taken to hospital but got back up and continued to race so he could enjoy his final race in front of the hundreds of tifosi in the stands and with his family and friends cheering from the track center.
Bettini and Llaneras pulled back three laps in the final two days of racing on the 166 mt track. They had slipped to second place before the final Madison but then stormed to victory with an aggressive final ride, beating Filippo Pozzato and Luke Roberts by just a few points. Olympic Madison champions Perez and Donadio finished third.
The final day of racing was an emotional send off for 34 year-old Bettini. He was cheered for the crowd during the winner’s ceremony and was close to tears as he realised it was his last ever race as a professional. Bettini will now dedicate his time to his wife Monica and daughter Veronica.
"For me, being here is so emotional, in front of all those friends and supporters. I strongly wanted to keep the word with "6 Giorni"'s organizers, and it's a great pleasure closing my career here in Milan. Now I will also commit in rallies, next week I will be a navigator on a Peugeot. It will be another intense experience".
During his successful career, Bettini rose from the role of domestique to become the most successful classics rider of his generation. He won almost all of the cycling’s biggest one-day classics and won the Olympic gold in Athens in 2004. He won back to back world title in 2006 and 2007 and his last road race was rightly this year’s world road race championships in Varese.
Source: EICMA; photos by Bettini