Tour's yellow jersey payback for Nocentini's sacrifices

Five days and counting for Italy's Nocentini

Rinaldo Nocentini has spent five days so far in cycling's most recognised jersey, the maillot jaune. It has given him more popularity and satisfaction than any other win in 11 years of professional cycling.

"I have given it all to cycling and I have never been able to do much with friends," said Nocentini. "When I would go to bed, they were heading out. But, when you arrive at a moment like this, with the yellow jersey on your back, you are satisfied."

The 31-year-old Italian formed part of a nine-man escape group in Friday's stage to Arcalís. Brice Feillu won, but Nocentini gained enough time to take the general classification lead from Fabian Cancellara.

He survived last weekend's two Pyrenean stages to carry the yellow jersey into Monday's rest day. This week's stages are perfect for sprinters and escapes, allowing Nocentini to keep the jersey. He will face his first major challenge Friday on the road to Colmar. The 200-kilometre stage includes two major climbs and the Col du Firstplan climb 20.5 kilometres from the finish.

"I hope that one more time an escape goes clear. My team is strong and can take control of the race. I don't know if the favourites will start a war on the final second category climb, if so I hope I can respond well."

If Nocentini passes Friday's stage with the yellow jersey he could finally lose it on Sunday's stage. The riders face a 207.5km test that ends with an 8.8km climb to Verbier. Second behind Nocentini in the overall classification by six seconds is 2007 Tour winner, Alberto Contador.

Nocentini has won 12 races as a professional, which includes the famous Mont Faron climb at the Méditerranéen Tour in 2007 and a stage at the Tour of California this year. He became the first Italian to lead the Tour de France since Alberto Elli in 2000.

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