Bettini clinches World Cup

Updated: October 16, 2004, 1:44 PM ET
Associated Press

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.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press