2006 Giro di Lombardia. Final kilometres. In the video, from around 3:00 minutes on Fabian Wegmann is chasing Paolo Bettini in a climb up San Fermo della Battaglia. A group of riders chases the Bettini and Wegmann in the break, Frank Schleck, Cristian Moreni, Matteo Carrera, but Bettini and Wegmann are out of reach.
3:40 in, we see Wegmann out of his saddle chasing Bettini, really giving it everything to keep up. A close up of Wegmann’s face. That is pain. That is a sufferface. The man is pushing himself to the limit just to keep up, to hold on, the lure of victory, of achievement around every corner.
10:30. Corners. Watching Bettini carve out such tight corners makes me cringe. The thought of his rig sliding out from under him while his body is seared by the pavement makes me clench my guts in awe and trepidation. Yet, nothing happens except narrow manouvres through the streets with Wegmann and Samual Sanchez right behind him.
12:01. Bettini is coming into the city centre, the fans shouting and cursing and slapping the pavement in rabid primal encouragement. 13:10. Bettini is about to cross the line, he zips up his jersey and… The rest is difficult to describe; he cries. The victory he won for his brother, who had died just days earlier. That Bettini could ride at all, that he chose to ride, let alone take the stage is a truly humbling thing to consider. Even though Alejandro Valverde took the overall Pro Tour title, it was Bettini’s victory in the Mendrisio-Como race that people remember about the end of the 2006 season.