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Matteo Trentin and his ongoing quest for the rainbow jersey

Italian veteran hoping for a similar scenario but different outcome from 2019 as he pedals into world championships prepared to embrace new opportunity.

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Matteo Trentin came as close as someone can to the rainbow jersey without getting it.

In 2019, he was second to Mads Pedersen in a brutally hard, cold, and wet UCI road world championships in Yorkshire.

With another classics-style course looming in Flanders on September 26, the 32-year-old Italian knows this is as good as chance as he’ll get to win the stripes.

“It’s a good course for me,” Trentin told VeloNews. “The favorites are all the same names — when you pull out van Aert, van der Poel and Alaphilippe, you also have a big group right there who can win. I can fit in there pretty good.”

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Trentin will be a central piece of the always strong Italian national team, where he will go in as co-captain with Sonny Colbrelli. Giacomo Nizzolo and Davide Ballerini will give Italy a deep squad for a variety of scenarios against the heavily favored Belgians. The final selection is expected to be confirmed Monday.

Colbrelli’s victory at the European championships last weekend, with Trentin taking fourth as the Italians dominated the road race on home roads, only bodes well for what lies ahead in Flanders.

Trentin insists the 2021 worlds present a new opportunity, not a chance to avenge what happened in 2019.

No one likes to be second — Trentin’s look said it all. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Trentin has already turned the page on the 2019 worlds, when it appeared he was destined to win the rainbow jersey until his legs froze up in the final sprint, opening the door for Pedersen to take the victory in a brutal day of racing in rainy Yorkshire.

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport in the aftermath, Trentin said he continued to replay the finale of the race over and over in his mind, saying the race’s outcome was becoming an obsession. “I was entering a dangerous tunnel,” he said. “I kept playing it over and over in my mind, blaming myself again and again, but it wasn’t going to change the outcome.”

Also read: Matteo Trentin on Yorkshire: ‘I am still upset’

Flash forward two years, and Trentin is only looking ahead.

The Italian on UAE Emirates knows the Flanders course — one riddled with short climbs and technical roads — is also well-suited for him.

“It’s not hard as Liège. The longest climb is maybe 600 meters. It’s more like Brabantse Pijl and those types of races in Flanders,” Trentin told VeloNews. “It’s going to be super technical, super stressful. Position is crucial, and the weather will make a huge difference. This type of course is good for me.”

Honing worlds form at Vuelta a España

Starting in Antwerp, the 270km elite men’s road race concludes in Leuven on two finishing loops that are a tangle of climbs, corners, narrow roads, and technical descents.

On paper, it’s ideal for a rider like Trentin, who will be able to race without all the pressure of the likes of Wout van Aert or Mathieu van der Poel, if the Dutch star ends up racing.

“If it’s windy and rainy, we can really see an elimination race,” Trentin said. “The Italians can play a good role if we make a smart race. The worlds are always a special race.”

Hot off the European championships, Trentin is sharpening his racing legs with two one-day races in Italy this week before heading to Leuven.

Trentin honed his base at the Vuelta a España, where he was active in several breakaways, hitting second in stage 13, and third in stage 16. He took confidence from those performances but wanted to leave the Spanish grand tour with a victory, even more so since his last pro wins came in 2019.

“I am quite happy where my form is,” Trentin said. “I am missing the victory to give me that boost of confidence that is so important.”

Despite not winning a stage, Trentin said he came out of the Vuelta feeling stronger and motivated for the major final dates of the 2021 racing calendar.

“I was up and down in the first half,” he said. “But you can see the legs were getting better into the second half. The Vuelta is always hard. They’ve really changed the ‘script’ of the Vuelta, it’s much more about shorter, harder efforts. You barely go over 200km, so it makes it easier for the breakaways to arrive and gives people more incentive to attack. The unfolding of the race is more for attackers and breakaways.”

Trentin expecting a ‘wild race’ in autumn version of Paris-Roubaix

After the worlds will be Paris-Roubaix, where he will co-captain with Alexander Kristoff. On paper, it’s not an ideal course for his style of racing, with seven starts and a career-best 36 in 2016, but he said he’s relishing an autumn Roubaix.

“It will be completely different,” Trentin said of Roubaix. “If you are preparing well for the worlds, it won’t be that different performance-wise, but coming in October, it will be a very different race. Just imagine how many leaves will be on the ground in the Arenberg forest, and how dangerous that will be. If you see the classics in the last years, you see them take a broom car over some of those sectors, and I am counting on ASO that they will do the same.

“It will be very different, too, because nobody will have been racing on the cobbles,” he said. “Normally, Roubaix is the last race of this period of racing on the cobblestones, and you are kind of more prepared. And now you will come out of nowhere, and you will hit the hardest pavé of the whole world. It should be a wild race — I hope so.”

In an ideal world, Trentin would be racing the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix in the rainbow jersey. That would definitively erase those replays in his mind of 2019.