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Nibali and Italy prepare for the Olympics

Vincenzo Nibali is a top favorite at the Rio Olympics, which he says may be his last chance to win a gold medal on a course that favors him.

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MILAN (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali and Italy’s Squadra Azzurra are preparing for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics road race Friday in Fiuggi, south of Rome. Nibali says that it is his second goal of the season after the Giro d’Italia, which he won in May.

Nibali, twice winner of the Giro, the 2014 Tour de France, and the 2010 Vuelta a España, knows Fiuggi’s roads well. His wife comes from the area and in the city known for its magical water, they married.

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“[The road race] won’t be easy, but given that course and the team we have, we can do very well,” 31-year-old Nibali said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. “And given my age, I think it’ll be my last chance.”

Nibali is training with Astana teammate Diego Rosa, BMC’s Damiano Caruso and Alessandro De Marchi. Friday night, team Astana’s Fabio Aru arrives in Fiuggi.

Here Pope Boniface VIII and Michelangelo tapped into Fiuggi’s water, which flows through volcanic deposits in the nearby mountains. Soon afterward, royalty around Europe were having bottles shipped to them. Today, drinking water of the same name is sold worldwide.

The water and perhaps blessings from his in-laws might help Nibali, although he is already a favorite, along with Spain’s Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Portugal’s Rui Costa (Lampre – Merida) and Ireland’s Daniel Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step). Besides success in grand tours, Nibali won Il Lombardia in 2015, and placed second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and third in Milano-Sanremo.

The Tour de France left some question marks for critics, but Nibali said that he had always intended to help teammate Aru and target certain stages. On the last mountain day to Morzine, he attacked free and played for the stage win until Ion Izagirre (Movistar) rode clear.

Thursday and Friday, Nibali rode through the countryside with his teammates and with his coach Paolo Slongo. Saturday, they fly to Rio de Janeiro from Rome.

“He wasn’t yet in top form at the start of the Tour,” Slongo told the Corriere dello Sport on Friday. “Vincenzo’s worked well and in the end, left the Tour as we had hoped. A one-day race like the Olympics is always hard to interpret, but we are going to arrive in the best form possible.”

De Marchi could attack early in the 241.5-kilometer course, perhaps along the coast east toward Rio, but Caruso, Rosa, and Aru should ride close by Nibali’s side until the final circuits.

The 8.5-kilometer climb on the Vista Chinesa circuit is repeated three times. Nibali earlier this year compared it to the famous Ghisallo climb in Il Lombardia, which he won last year.

“At the start very difficult, a part with a descent, then climbing for three kilometers,” he said. “With a course this hard, I think it’ll be decided on the Vista Chinesa, in particular, on that last switchback.”