Fourth at the last two World Championships, Noemi Cantele goes into the weekend's road race as one of the leading contenders. Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins spoke to the Italian women's team captain as she made her last minute preparations.
For most riders, just to represent their country at the World Championships is a great honour, to do it when those World Championships are in their home country is something else. When those World Championships are in the town in which they were born and grew up is another thing entirely, especially if that rider happens to have a genuine chance for victory.
When we caught up with Noemi Cantele she had just returned home after racing in the Giro della Toscana, a race she won last year. Despite second place on the second stage behind Dutch superstar Marianne Vos (DSB Bank) she finished the race in 16th overall. This year however, she entered the race with intentions other than victory. "It was good for my goal," she said, "because I didn't want to be 100% there. I looked only at the first two stages and then I used it to be okay for Saturday."
Ah, yes, Saturday. The Worlds in Varese. Her hometown. Surely it must be a little bit exciting to have the World Championships in your hometown...
"A lot, not a little bit!" she laughed. "Really for me it's like a dream, and also today I went on the lap for training and really now I can understand the atmosphere: the feelings are really different from the other World Championships. Also the finish is really special, because inside the cycling stadium, the scenario is really special."
There are quite a few cyclists based in the area, a number of Australians for instance are there at the European base of the Australian Institute of Sport. No one though quite has the same claim as Cantele to be the real local girl. "Yes, I was born in Varese," she confirmed, "but I live 5km outside. I went to the university – to study there – so really it's my town. I train every day on these roads, so I know everything."
With that kind of local knowledge, surely nobody will know Saturday's course as well. "I think no!" she laughed again. "Also because, okay, it's not a big city so everybody knows me, so when you train it's... and now the city is really ready for the World Championships!"
Despite being the local girl, it seems that the expected pressure has not yet begun to be felt, but she expects it to at some point soon. "I don't know," she said, "I think I feel less pressure than last year, I don't know why... But okay, now I'm at home so I don't think that, but when I go to the hotel where I will stay with the national team... Then I think it will be a little bit different because we are in Italy, and the World Championships are in Italy, and everybody wants that we do really [well] and so I think the pressure will increase. But okay, it's normal; it's no problem."