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Nibali seeks rainbow jersey to complete his trophy case

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Grand tours? Check. One-day races? Check. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) now wants to win the world championship rainbow jersey in 2018 to round out his palmares.

Nibali – who Italians call “The Shark” – convincingly won Il Lombardia for a second time on Saturday. He attacked with 17 kilometers to race and arrived solo along the lake in Como.

He already won Il Lombardia in 2015 and placed on the podium in both Milano-Sanremo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, two of cycling’s other five monuments. He won all three grand tours. Now, the idea is to put on the Italian national jersey and win the world championship.

“I’d want the world title,” Nibali said. “The world title or an Olympic gold medal. Or both!”

Nibali had his chance in the Olympics last summer in Brazil. On the final lap, he crashed on the descent and fractured his collarbone.

Often climbers like Nibali, Chris Froome (Sky), or the recently retired Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) do not have occasion to take the gold medal. The worlds or Olympics tend to suit those cyclists with a fast sprint, or at least those who can climb and sprint.

The Austrian course in Innsbruck presents Nibali the occasion to win a gold medal and cycling’s famous rainbow jersey that has been Peter Sagan’s for the last three years.

The local organizer revealed the details of the Alpine course in September, which includes the Igls climb to 1,039 meters every lap and the Gramartboden with 25 percent gradient on the final long loop. In total, they will have to climb 4,670 meters over 265 kilometers next September 30. It is viewed as the hardest in many years, at least since the 1995 worlds in Colombia won by Abraham Olano.

“I already embraced Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which is a race that I like much, and I want to win it even if it is not easy. And then the worlds,” Nibali said. “I know that there are many strong riders for these types of races like Julian Alaphilippe, and it won’t be easy.”

A crash also ruled out Nibali from winning the tough world championship in Florence four years ago in 2013. Portuguese cyclist Rui Costa went on to take the rainbow jersey.

Nibali won the Giro d’Italia in 2013 and 2016, the Tour de France in 2014, and the Vuelta a España in 2010. He is one of only six to have won all three grand tours.

Italians, however, greatly appreciate the world title and even the honor of wearing the national team’s blue jersey or the maglia azzurra. To be secure in his place among Italy’s greats, Nibali would need a rainbow jersey in his closet at home.

Italian Alfredo Binda won the first edition in 1927. Fausto Coppi, Felice Gimondi, Francesco Moser, and Giuseppe Saronni all count one world title. Only the great Gino Bartali did not win the race. Nibali, 32, could succeed given his love for the classics and other one-day races.

“I missed out on racing the classics [in 2017], but it’s harder to have strong form in the start of the year as it is in the end of it. This mental and physical condition is greatly thanks to racing the Vuelta a España,” Nibali added.

The accolades may have fallen mostly for Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Chris Froome, and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in 2017. Nibali, though, enjoyed one of his best seasons while helping team Bahrain-Merida debut in professional cycling. He placed third overall in the Giro d’Italia behind winner Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and second in the Vuelta a España behind Froome.

“Now,” Nibali added, “I just want to consider this success in Lombardia and enjoy the end of season.”

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