By Hedwig Kröner
Italian Rinaldo Nocentini, last week-end's runner-up at Paris-Nice behind fellow countryman Davide Rebellin, could also be a contender for Saturday's Milano-Sanremo, Italy's biggest one-day Classic. The AG2R La Mondiale rider and his Gerolsteiner colleague are both in great form, and the parcours of the Classicissima suits them well.
"Sanremo will be interesting," Nocentini told Cyclingnews on Sunday in Nice. "They put another climb on the parcours, five kilometres long [Le Mánie – ed.]. I already talked to Rebellin, that we have to race flat out to get rid of the sprinters at the Poggio, or before that. I love this race..."
The 30 year-old is having a great early season this year, having won the Grand Prix Lugano and placing second at the Tour du Haut Var and Paris-Nice behind Rebellin. Asked what he changed in his off-season preparation, Nocentini had a surprising answer. "It's the first time that I stopped drinking wine... I never had much alcohol, but in the beginning of the year, I decided I should quit drinking wine altogether. So that's what I did."
He admitted that this helped him being sharper earlier in the year. "If I would have had to race the Mont Ventoux last year, it wouldn't have been the same," he said. "I'm a bit lighter this season because of this. Less body fat. I also did more kilometres before the beginning of the season. With the team we had three training camps, but I also trained more on my own, so that helped."
After the Primavera, the AG2R leader will be the team's captain throughout the Belgian Ardennes Classics, again measuring himself with the best, including Rebellin. "I will be doing Amstel, Flèche and Liège," he confirmed. But before then, he will take part in "País Vasco, but I won't do it at a 100 percent. I think it's better to do it more for training, as I've already raced for victory a lot this year. I did the Tour du Haut Var, Lugano and Paris-Nice, and if I want to stay competitive for the Ardennes Classics, then I need some time to pause. But País Vasco will still be important to race, for preparation."