<
>

Bettini clinches World Cup

10/16/2004

COMO, Italy -- Giro d'Italia champion Damiano Cunego of Italy won a five-way sprint Saturday to capture the Tour of Lombardy while countryman and Olympic champion Paolo Bettini clinched his third consecutive World Cup title to close the
international cycling season.

Bettini finished 29th, one spot behind main rival Davide
Rebellin, to secure the overall title. He ended the competition
with 340 points, 13 ahead of Rebellin.

The yearly 10-race competition, which started in 1989, will be
replaced by a 30-race pro tour beginning in 2005.

Bettini, who rides with the Quick Step team, is the only cyclist
to win the World Cup three times. He took the trophy this year
without a single victory, capitalizing on top-three placings.

Cunego recorded his 13th victory of the year, sprinting ahead of
Dutchman Michael Boogerd in the final straightaway. Italy's Ivan
Basso was third, followed by Australia's Cadel Evans and Italy's
Daniele Nardello.

"It was the perfect end for a sensational season, and it came
in a very important race," said Cunego, who defeated his Saeco
captain, Gilberto Simoni, in this year's Giro.

The winner completed the 152.5-mile hilly course along Lake Como
in 6 hours, 17 minutes, 55 seconds, averaging 24.2 mph.

Bettini and Rebellin had been feuding recently on who deserved
to captain the national team at the world road championships in
Verona. They embraced after crossing the finish line.

"There was nothing personal with Rebellin, we are friends and
fought as pros. ... I'm proud of going into the record books with
three wins in this great competition," Bettini said.

Rebellin had two wins in 2004 World Cup races.

"Bettini was the best man this season," Rebellin said.