Rinaldo Nocentini won the 61st GP Lugano on Sunday over Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld), making a strong opening to his second season with French ProTour Team Ag2r-La Mondiale. The 30 year-old Italian from Montevarchi (Arezzo) broke clear of a five-man move in the finale with a do or die attitude, the same that earned him a spot in the squadra azzurra.
Fourth overall in the Tour Méditerranéen and second on the sponsor's home turf in the Tour du Haut Var, Nocentini knew he was starting his season well, but yesterday confirmed it. The win in the 178.5-kilometre classic showed some of the same brilliant form that earned him a spot on the 2006 Italian national team; that year, riding for Acqua & Sapone, he pulled out wins in the Giro dell'Appennino, Giro del Veneto and Coppa Placci before going on to help leader Paolo Bettini win the gold medal in Salzburg, Austria.
Yesterday, Nocentini was presented with a do or die situation as he was in a move with faster competitors in the closing kilometres of the GP Lugano. For company there were fellow Italians Gasparotto and Rebellin. "We were in five, and at least two were faster than me," he recalled to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "With 700 metres to go it was 'o la va o la spacca' ('do or die'), and I went." He kept his 20-metre advantage over Rebellin and Gasparotto, finishing second and third respectively.
"Other than this win there are the second place in Haut Var behind Rebellin, the fourth in Méditerranéen, the fifth on the [Tour Méditerranéen] stage to Mont Faron," he recalled. "This was one of my preferred types of finishes."
Nocentini will now race in Paris-Nice and then Milano-Sanremo. "I selected Paris-Nice for myself because the course is harder and therefore adaptable to my characteristics. I know that the UCI [International Cycling Union] wants to give a six-month suspension to those who participate, but first they have to be in agreement with the federations, teams and [race] organisers, otherwise it will be a disaster."
He will come across 'Tin-Tin' Rebellin once again when he is at Paris-Nice, who confirmed he is going strong. "I am going stronger than you imagine," stated Rebellin.