Italian moves out of the shadows and into the spotlight
After defending his yellow jersey for a second day in the Pyrenees Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) said in Tarbes that he believes he can now keep it for another week, until Sunday’s summit finish at the Swiss ski resort of Verbier.
"It’s a dream to get to Verbier with the yellow," he said. "The next few days are good for me, and I have a great team with me to help out, so I hope to keep it as long as possible."
The 31-year old was second in the world under-23 road championship in 1998, behind Ivan Basso (and ahead of the third-placed Danilo Di Luca), but he has hardly set the cycling world on fire since then, until this Tour. Why not? "I won two stages in Malaysia [the Tour of Langkawi] in my first year as a professional," said Nocentini. "But then I had to work for others, because I was in a team of great champions [Mapei], and I lost a bit of condition."
As for whether his spell in yellow had attracted the attention of Franco Ballerini, who will select the Italian team for the world championships, Nocentini said he wasn’t sure. "I got a lot of phone calls but I didn’t recognise the numbers," he joked. "Maybe he did call, but I wouldn’t have recognised his number…"
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