His masseur Michele Pallini works his muscles and coach Paolo Slongo looks over the Tour’s road book. Slongo checks Nibali has everything he needs before the Alpe d’Huez and steps off the bus.
“Vincenzo is not racing only for the podium or a placing in Paris, he has a winner’s mentality. He is, and he believes, that he’s a champion,” Slongo said.
“For him to attack from far out is not a scary thought. Sooner or later, he’s going to do something to try to win this Tour.”
Nibali sits fourth overall, 2:14 minutes from leader Geraint Thomas. Thomas and his Sky teammate Chris Froome seem to have a firm grip on this Tour de France only half way into the race.
In the Bahrain team, they are saying that Team Sky is on another planet. And budget-wise, the British team is.
Nibali said the other day that maybe budget caps would solve the problem. Sky races with around $42 million a year. Bahrain-Merida’s budget is more or less $15 million.
The Sicilian, 33, won the Tour de France in 2014. He counts two overall winner trophies from the Giro d’Italia. And the third grand tour, the Vuelta a España, he won in 2010.
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As Slongo said, he is not aiming for a podium spot, and certainly not one like 2012 when he finished third behind Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. He wants to win with what the Italians call “grinta” — the same showmanship/strength mix that saw him ride free on the Poggio and win the Milano-Sanremo this March.
“Sky is unbelievable, really strong,” Nibali said. “But come on, there are still some stages left for us.”
“If Sky remains like this for the rest of the Tour, and above all in the third week, it’s going to be impossible to break them,” said Slongo.
“Thomas and Froome, the team, gave a show of force on La Rosière. Thomas looks stronger, and if I was him, I’d name myself as the leader.
“What we are looking over in the book is the many difficulties to come. Maybe someone will crack, especially those that came off the Giro d’Italia. Froome raced it, Vincenzo didn’t. Based on how he’s feeling, maybe in the third week, we can come up with something.”