Sonny Colbrelli will race in his new European road race champion’s jersey for the first time on Wednesday at the Giro della Toscana one-day race, convinced he and Italy can go on to fight for the world champion’s rainbow jersey in Flanders in 12 days time.
Collbrelli celebrated his European title with the rest of the Italian national team on Sunday night, visiting Francesco Moser’s winery in the hills above Trento and opening some special bottles of sparkling wine.
"It wasn’t a simple win, it happened in Italy and against [Remco] Evenepoel and [Tadej] Pogačar," Colbrelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport, justifying his and Italy’s celebrations of a fourth consecutive European title.
"On Sunday Remco was stronger than I was but I was able to go with him, while [Benoît] Cosnefroy blew up. My mental strength made up for the bit of physical ability I was lacking. After cracking so many other times, I held my nerve and won."
Colbrelli cited phrases from his mental coach. He has transformed a huge number of placings into victories with Bahrain Victorious in 2021, also winning the Italian national title, the recent Benelux Tour, and stages at the Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
"He taught me to give up only after crossing the finish line. He reminded me that when I’m suffering, my rivals are suffering too and that’s when you make the difference between winning and losing," Colbrelli explained.
"On Sunday I was counting the minutes and seconds before the end of the final climb. That was the key to my victory."
Colbrelli confirmed his weight and diet have also been a factor. He has lost three kilograms this season, thanks to a better diet and training at altitude. He is now six kilograms lighter than the early years of his career.
He now intends to stay lean, fit and focused until travelling to Belgium for the World Championships road race on Sunday September 26. He will ride the Giro della Toscana on Wednesday, the following day’s Coppa Sabatini, and then the Memorial Marco Pantani and the Trofeo Matteotti at the weekend. Colbrelli will also ride Paris-Roubaix on Sunday October 3.
"The form is there, I’ve just got to keep it, without getting too obsessed about everything. I’m going to race in Italy but not kill myself in training," he said.
Colbrelli will have a leadership role in the Italian team for the World Championships alongside Matteo Trentin and Giacomo Nizzolo.
Italy is convinced the united strength of the so-called ‘Squadra Azzurra’ can compete with Belgium’s Wout van Aert, defending champion Julian Alaphilippe, who leads the French team, and the likes of Denmark, Great Britain and perhaps Mathieu van der Poel if his back problem allows him to race for the Netherlands.
"Van Aert and Van der Poel are the riders to beat but if we race like we did in Trento on Sunday, then we can have our say," Colbrelli predicted.
"Nobody reads a race like Matteo Trentin. He attacked because he realised it was the right moment to explode the race. I don’t think any team comes together like Italy does for the European and World Championships."
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