Vincenzo Nibali has gotten to know his new teammates at a string of pre-season training camps. Now it’s time to race. The Italian star will debut his Trek-Segafredo colors at Volta ao Algarve, February 19-23, in Portugal.
“Although I have many season debuts behind me, doing it with a new team brings a touch of serene trepidation,” said Nibali, who will race in Portugal for the first time in his career. “It will be a long season, and my first big goal is the Giro d’Italia. To reach my best condition there, I need to do it step by step, with a clear roadmap, and without excessive stress to the physique. Algarve is the perfect starting point.”
The five-day Algarve race, held along Portugal’s stunning southern coast, has emerged as one of the most challenging early season races on the calendar. With two mountain-top finales and a time trial, many top names use the race as an important measuring stick for their coming season preparations. Such names as Geraint Thomas and Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) have won there recently.
Defending champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Emirates) won’t be back, however. The young Slovenian recently won in his season debut at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, and is scheduled to race next at the UAE Tour.
Other big names for the GC heading to Algarve this year include Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation). Thomas and Kwiatkowski are both back, and several other top names, such as Philippe Gilbert and John Degenkolb (Lotto-Soudal), Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix).
“The stages have everything I need for my first feedback: two uphill arrivals, demanding routes, and a time trial,” Nibali said. “It’s my first time in this race, I won’t have any comparisons with past experiences, so it will be an interesting test. Honestly, to have ambitions of victory won’t be easy, but no doubt I’ll perform 100 percent to be useful to the team’s ambition. We have started the season great, and now I want to make my contribution.”
At Algarve, Nibali will be joined by Bauke Mollema, who also makes his season debut. The Dutchman will want to carry his momentum from his breakout Giro di Lombardia victory last fall into 2020, with big targets on the Ardennes classics and the Tour de France.
“The winter went in the best way, without any hiccups or problems, and I have fully recovered from an exciting but energy-intensive 2019 season finale,” Mollema said. “That’s why we decided to postpone the debut compared to past years. We also added the camp at Teide, so I’ve done quite a lot of work in preparation.”
Nibali will have a busy racing schedule after Algarve, with early season highlights at Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Liège-Bastogne-Liège before heading to the Giro d’Italia.