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Nibali to follow Italian roads to the Giro

Strade Bianche, Milano-Sanremo, Il Lombardia, Tirreno-Adriatico highlight Sicilian's pre-Giro schedule.

Vincenzo Nibali is following an almost exclusively Italian pathway toward his challenge for the pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia this October.

The intense post-shutdown schedule, which packs nearly an entire season into just over three months of racing, provides numerous scheduling complications, but Nibali’s choices are clear as he targets his third Giro title. The Sicilian will include returns to Strade Bianche, Milano-Sanremo, Il Lombardia, and the world championships in his build to what will be his ninth-ever Corsa Rosa. 

“Such an intense racing schedule is something extraordinary and unpredictable,” Nibali said of the unprecedented post-COVID season. “The traditional images of the spring classics and grand tours will be overturned. All the riders, not just the leaders, will be at the starting line full of energy and competitive like never before.”

Nibali added that the summer heat will have unpredictable effects on riders, especially with such little race preparation. Milan-Sanremo in particular promises to produce plenty of surprises. 300 kilometers of racing in what could well be 90-degree heat is quite different than the traditional temperatures found at La Primavera in March.

Outside of the Swiss world championships, Nibali’s entire program will be in Italy, reducing any potential logistical complications or travel restrictions that could be announced if the second wave of COVID-19 continues to rise.

It is no secret that Nibali’s main goal this season will be winning a third Giro d’Italia title. That was his top priority before the coronavirus crisis halted the season, and that remains his goal today. In addition, the new Grande Partenza will be held in his native Sicily instead of Budapest, Hungary, as originally planned, and Nibali will hold the home advantage.

“The warmth of my homeland will offer a beautiful and emotional context, but I cannot allow myself any distractions,” Nibali said. “The time trial and the finish on Mont Etna two days later require me to be prepared from the beginning. I think the third week will be the decisive one. The time trial specialists have an advantage in the opening stage, but after two weeks, everyone’s physical and mental forces will be different.”

Nibali sees defending champion Richard Carapaz, Jacob Fuglsang, and Simon Yates as providing the principal challenge in the fight for GC, although he admits that the unknown potential of 20-year-old Remco Evenepoel provides a wildcard to the race.

The Belgian is an outstanding time trialist, something that will play to his advantage. But with the Giro his first-ever grand tour, he will be racing in uncharted territory. “He’s strong, and he has approached cycling with personality,” Nibali said. “I like him. Only the road will tell how well he can perform during a three-week grand tour.”

Nibali’s schedule includes the Strade Bianche on August 1, Milan-Turin on August 3, Milan-Sanremo on August 8, the Tour of Lombardy on August 15 and the Italian championships on August 23. He will then complete another altitude camp prior to racing Tirreno-Adriatico September 7-14, the Giro dell’Appennino on September 20, the world championships on September 27 and finally the Giro d’Italia from October 3 to 25.