Vincenzo Nibali is not underestimating Chris Froome as the Tour de France looms
FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) knows that Chris Froome is going to be hard to stop as he fights for a fifth Tour de France title this July.
The Team Sky star just won the Giro d’Italia and is aiming to be the first in 20 years to win the Giro/Tour double. Nibali can only say “chapeau” to his rival.
“Can he win the double? Maybe so,” Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“For sure, he finished the Giro with his form only getting better. To beat him, to beat them, you have to do something special.”
Sky is heading in the Tour as team number one with five wins, including one from Bradley Wiggins and the four from Froome. Geraint Thomas, who just won the Critérium du Dauphiné, will co-lead the team along with Froome.
“What does Froome have over the rest us? The team. They have a budget available that allows them to do what they want.”
Team Sky’s budget is estimated at $42 million. Bahrain’s budget was around $18 million for 2017.
In the Tour de Suisse yesterday, race leader and former Sky rider Richie Porte (BMC Racing) commented on the team’s strength saying they could field three teams for every grand tour. He hopes that Froome will be somewhat tired after winning the Giro d’Italia.
Froome crashed twice in the Giro d’Italia in May. He trailed by 3:22 minutes ahead of the 19th stage and it appeared Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) would continue to march towards Rome in the pink jersey. Froome, however, ordered Team Sky to the front, dropped Yates on the Colle delle Finestre, and attacked once the road’s surface turned to hard-packed gravel.
His 80.3-kilometer solo move saw him win the stage and take the race lead. Froome secured the title two days later in Rome next to the Colosseum.
Instead of racing as he normally does, he is taking June off to recover and specifically train for a fifth Tour title. This week, he and Thomas previewed the Alpe d’Huez stage.
If anyone could beat Froome, it is Vincenzo Nibali. The Sicilian won all three grand tours in his career, including the Tour in 2014. This season he has been at his best, winning Milano-Sanremo solo with an attack from the Poggio and attacking in the Tour of Flanders, which failed but paved the way for the solo win by Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors).
His Bahrain-Merida team says he is on track for another Tour win.
Some critics argue Froome should not even be racing with an ongoing case for asthma drug salbutamol. He tested over the limit for the drug, which is allowed up to certain amounts. A ruling may not come until this autumn.
“Nobody prohibited him from racing in this period, the rules allowed it, and I think I would have done the same,” Nibali said.
“Of course I’m not one who’ll hang out with Froome and go to dinner with him, but there is mutual respect between us.
“You know that after my Milano-Sanremo win I did not want to go home right away and I stopped in the evening in Monaco. I was around town with Valerio Agnoli and we came across Chris, who complimented me for the victory. I appreciated that so much.”