Giro d'Italia

Nibali likes his chances at Giro after two-year absence

The Italian won the race in 2013 and said he's excited to compete for the pink jersey in his home grand tour.

MILAN (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali is returning home and racing the Giro d’Italia this year for the first time since 2013, the year he won. He said after sitting out two years and going to the Tour de France last year instead, he had to return to Italy’s grand tour.

Astana’s Sicilian rider already won the Vuelta a España in 2010 and the Tour de France in 2014. He tried to win the Tour again last year, but he left with only a stage win and fourth-place overall – and a desire to return to the Giro.

“Because I miss the Giro d’Italia,” Nibali told Italian magazine Sport Week. “After two years away, I felt the desire to return.

“To return to the race where I made my name. I raced the first year in 2007, my third year as a professional, and finished 19th. I was a helper in team Liquigas for Danilo Di Luca, who won.”

Nibali helped Ivan Basso win in 2010, placed third in 2011 — which later became second with Alberto Contador’s disqualification — and returned to win in 2013.

In 2012, Nibali stood on the Tour’s podium for the first time behind Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. It was enough for him to decide to change course and try to win in the coming years. But 2014’s victory took its toll.

“Afterwards, there was too much. Parties, distractions, too much weight,” Nibali explained. “At the first team camp, I saw that my teammates were further along than I was.”

Nibali ate some humble pie in 2015 and had time to think about 2016. He and his trainer Paolo Slongo decided it was best for him to come out fighting and not ease up until the Giro ends May 29 in Turin.

With Nibali’s experience and his Tour of Oman win in February, insiders mark the 31-year-old as a favorite. There are some question marks, however, because Sky’s Mikel Landa rode away from him in the Giro del Trentino last week. But even Landa said, “When [Nibali] prepares for something, he doesn’t make a mistake.”

“Landa was my teammate last year and he pulled off some numbers in the Giro,”Nibali added. Linda was third in the race behind winner Alberto Contador. “Alejandro Valverde is hard-headed and never gives up. But then there are young rivals like Esteban Chaves.”

The Giro starts with a time trial in Apeldoorn, and continues on Dutch roads through Sunday. On Tuesday, the race restarts at home in Calabria and makes its way north through Tuscany, where the cyclists face a 40.5-kilometer time trial through the Chianti hills. Like always, the high Alpine passes mark the third and final week.

“I like this Giro because it’s similar to the one I won in 2013,” Nibali said. “Nervous stages at the start and then obviously, it will all be decided in the last week.”