Tour de France star Nocentini ready for Paris-Nice
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tour de France star Nocentini ready for Paris-Nice

by Samuel Morrison at 11:43 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Nice

Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) reminded the French that his eight days in the Tour de France yellow jersey was no fluke by winning stage one of Tour du Haut Var. His win came yesterday in Grimaud, France, prior to Christophe Le Mevel (Française des Jeux) winning today's second stage and final overall classification.

"I knew that I would be watched closely in my debut after spending eight days in the yellow jersey at the Tour," Italian Nocentini told La Gazzetta dello Sport, "so I had a winter like you need to have."

Nocentini feels that he is now positioned to achieve one of his season goals, Paris-Nice.

"I think it will be my best season debut together with two years ago, when I won Lugano and arrived second to Rebellin at Paris-Nice. I want to continue my winning ways and make another step up to take Paris-Nice. If I do well there, I will continue on and try to win Milano-Sanremo."

Two years ago at Paris-Nice, Nocentini and Davide Rebellin cracked young leader Robert Gesink on the Tanneron mountain pass of the penultimate stage. Nocentini finished with Rebellin and moved up to second overall by three seconds, the time he had lost to Rebellin in stage one to Nevers.

Nocentini, 32, races Insubria and Lugano next weekend in Switzerland prior to returning to France for the 'Race to the Sun', Paris-Nice, March 7 to 14.

"After the Tour de France it is the most important race for the team."

French team AG2R had nothing but praise for its Italian rider when he took the Tour de France's yellow jersey after stage seven to Arcalís last year. He kept the jersey the longest, more than Contador or Fabian Cancellara, and finished 14th overall, 20'45" behind Spaniard Alberto Contador.

This July, Nocentini is aiming for more, a top ten finish. He has started his winter training 15 days earlier and plans to be one to two kilograms lighter than his weight at last year's Tour, 60 kilograms.

His believes his reduced weight will help in the mountain stages, but he is not over-looking the earlier stages. He said that he likes stage three to the Arenberg Forest, which takes in seven cobble stone sectors normally used in Paris-Roubaix.

"I am a rider who can handle his bike well and I am convinced on that stage I can gain some important time gains for the classification. But, it will be the first time I am going to race over this type of pavé. It's going to be important to go and see the stage before the race since I have never done races like Paris-Roubaix."

Nocentini plans to preview the stage after the Ardennes Classics in April after Milano-Sanremo and Volta a Catalunya. During this same break, he will begin to prepare for a win in the Ardennes Classics: Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne or Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

He has won 13 races in his 12 years as a professional, including the Méditerranéen Tour's Mont Faron in 2007 and a stage at the Tour of California last year. He was the first Italian to take the Tour de France's yellow jersey since Alberto Elli in 2000.

Last week at the Tour Méditerranéen, he finished third on the stage to Mont Faron and second overall behind Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).


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