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Trentin’s road to classics climbs Mount Etna

Matteo Trentin is hoping the heights of Mount Etna will give him an edge in the bergs and cobbles of the northern classics this spring.

Others have tried altitude training ahead of the spring classics, including Team Sky, with mixed results. Trentin, however, is convinced altitude will do him some good, and so the Etixx – Quick-Step rider will escape to Sicily to train on the flanks of Mount Etna ahead of the upcoming classics campaign.

“I always do altitude camp in the summer, usually about 15 to 20 days. It works really well, so let’s try if it will work for the classics,” Trentin told VeloNews. “I will head to Etna to see if it will give me a boost.”

Altitude camps have become an essential part of modern training, especially for grand tour riders heading to the Tour de France. While it has clear advantages for riders racing up the French mountain cols in July, altitude training hasn’t proven to be a major impact on the classics. Sky tried it with their riders a few years ago with mixed results, with some riders even saying the demands of the altitude camp wore them out ahead of the grueling classics. The British team has since ditched its altitude training for its classics-bound riders in its quest to win a major one-day classic.

Trentin has used altitude training before, including trips to Lake Tahoe and Livigno, Italy, and the 26-year-old Italian is hoping the effort will pay off for the classics.

As a key member of the deep and experienced Etixx classics team, Trentin knows he needs to be at the absolute top of his game to have a chance for victory. Not only does he need to beat the rest of the peloton, he has to work his way up the hierarchy at Etixx. With Tom Boonen, Zdenek Stybar, and Niki Terpstra ahead of him, Trentin accepts he is a few rungs down the ladder. But if a door opens, he wants to be ready to storm right in.

“We have the big guys, with Tom, Stybie, Niki, but even like last year, I was third in Harelbeke,” Trentin said. “Everyone is very clear about this. We all want to win, but it’s important that the team wins.”

Trentin is one of the few modern Italians who is targeting the northern classics, picking up the tradition from such riders as Michele Bartoli, Gianluca Bortolami, Andrea Tafi, and Franco Ballerini — a generation of Italians who dominated the classics in the 1990s.

“It’s always a childhood dream to win a big classic,” Trentin said. “It would be nice to win such a race just once. To win just one of these monuments would be like a dream. Being on this team, with such a big history, it’s something that I am very proud of.”

No Italian has won Paris-Roubaix since Tafi in 1999 or the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) since Alessandro Ballan in 2007. Yet it’s the 2001 edition of Roubaix, won by Sky sport director Servais Knaven, that drew Trentin into the classics.

“The 2001 Paris-Roubaix, that was the most epic race I’ve ever seen,” he said. “That’s when I started to love the classics. Your body is on the limit, they are very physical races. They are the big challenges in this sport.”

In fact, the dynamics of that 2001 Roubaix, when Knaven rode as a support rider for his higher-profile captains, is just the kind of scenario Trentin would need to someday win one of the classics.

“The road speaks for the riders, so if someone is feeling great, they will have their chance,” Trentin said, insisting there are no problems on the talent-rich Etixx classics squad. “We are all professional, and we are all racing for the same team. Last year, I was third at Harelbeke, so the chance is there to win something if you have a great day.”

With Boonen looking at perhaps his final season, Trentin is poised to move up. Entering his sixth campaign with the Belgian outfit, Trentin has already won two stages at the Tour de France and won Paris-Tours last fall. Though not considered a “monument,” Paris-Tours was an important milestone for the improving Italian.

“That was a nice present to win Paris-Tours. I was chasing victory in a one-day race for awhile,” Trentin said. “I made a good end of season [run]. I was well-prepared for the worlds, but I made a tactical mistake that took me out of the race. When I went home, I was mad for one week, thinking about the worlds, because you do not get too many opportunities to be there. I made a mental switch, and I used that frustration from the worlds.”

Don’t look for Trentin at the Belgian opener at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, however. He’s skipping the first weekend of the Belgian classics to head to Mount Etna instead. He’s hoping the rarified air of the Sicilian volcano will help him on the cobbles of Flanders and France.