Nocentini races for Worlds spot at Vuelta a España

Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R) is in yellow for another day.

Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R) is in yellow for another day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

Italian Rinaldo Nocentini wants to put his name back at the top after wearing the leader's yellow jersey at the Tour de France. He will start will start the Vuelta a España on Saturday with the goal to earn himself a spot on his national team for the World championships.

"I am going there to win a stage and to earn the maglia azzurra [Italy's national team jesey - ed.]," Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) told Cyclingnews. "I don't need to do a lot, but I need to show that I am still available."

Italian team director Franco Ballerini will be at the Vuelta a España for 12 to 13 stages to observe the progress of his candidates. Nocentini said he wants to win a stage in the first days while Ballerini is at the race and highlighted the race's fourth stage to Liège.

At this year's Tour de France Nocentini finished fourth on stage seven to Arcalís and took over the leader's yellow jersey. He wore the malliot jaune for eight days, the longest of any rider at the Tour. Spaniard Alberto Contador won the race by 20:45 over Nocentini, who finished 14th.

Nocentini said his performance in the Tour helps, but is insufficient to earn a spot on the nine-man Worlds team. He last raced for the Italian team at the 2006 Worlds in Salzburg, Austria, when teammate Paolo Bettini won his first title.

Ballerini has a difficult job selecting the team this year with Paolo Bettini retired and both Danilo Di Luca and Davide Rebellin suspended for doping offences. Vincenzo Nibali was to have a key role, but he crashed and broke his collarbone in Sunday's stage of the Eneco Tour.

Ballerini will likely build the team around defending champion Alessandro Ballan and Damiano Cunego.

"Cunego can have a great Worlds," said Nocentini. "Nibali would have been important for us. He could have made the escapes and gone for the win. It will be a team that has to enter into the escapes because we don't have a big-named rider, like Bettini.

"If I go Ballerini will decide how I can help the team."

Italy has won the World Championships for the last three years: Paolo Bettini in 2006 and 2007, and Ballan in 2008. No country has won the race in four consecutive years.

The course in Mendrisio, Switzerland, will be one of the hardest since 2003 in Hamilton, Canada. The circuit has two climbs, the Acqua Fresca and the Novazzano, in a short 13.8-kilometre circuit repeated 19 times.

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