MILAN (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali does not want to have a spring campaign like the one he had in 2015, when he did not take any spring victories and faced questions heading towards the Tour de France. His Astana coach Paolo Slongo says that the team and the rider are planning 2016 differently, aiming to peak at the Giro d’Italia in May.
The Italian, winner of all three grand tours, won a stage and placed fourth overall in the 2015 Tour and blasted through the late summer with a solo Il Lombardia victory after being ejected from the Vuelta a España. His spring campaign had been a bust, however.
“Does he want to win more next spring? Yes, that’s Vincenzo’s plan,” Slongo told VeloNews.
“Our goal is to be more ready for the spring, in races like Tirreno-Adriatico or Paris-Nice. Competitive right away. Also, having the mentality to win.”
Nibali is the only one of the current “big four” grand tour stars to have won a one-day monument and is one of only six cyclists to win in all three grand tours, the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and Vuelta a España. The short list also includes Alberto Contador and past cyclists like Eddy Merckx and Bernhard Hinault.
The months that followed his 2014 Tour victory, however, were not some of his best results-wise. For various reasons, from sponsor and team commitments to an injured Achilles tendon, he struggled to reach his potential in races like Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour de Romandie.
His team was in trouble, as well. Astana fought through April to keep its licence after doping cases rocked its professional and feeder teams last season.
“If it all goes well, we’ll be completive in the spring,” continued Slongo. “We wanted his peak in form in the Tour [in 2015] so maybe before he wasn’t at his best. We were looking to the Tour and that’s it. Now, he’s going to aim for a higher level of form already in the spring, at the end of February or March. Not at 100%, but at a level that makes him competitive.
“We will complete his work earlier than in the past years. In the last years, he had his base fitness and waited until the days leading to the race to work at intensity. We are anticipating this, and trying between races to recover enough to maintain that level of form. Being at 80-85% is enough for him to be competitive in certain races.”
Nibali will debut in Argentina at the Tour de San Luis mid-January. The rest of his spring schedule will be confirmed at a team camp at the end of this month in Tuscany.
Slongo said that it is almost certain that Nibali will aim for another Giro title to go with the one he earned in 2013 and then back off for the Rio Olympic road race in August, using either the Tour de France or tours like Austria and Poland as a lead up.
Further on the horizon, a team change is reported. Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport wrote that Nibali will likely leave Astana for 2017 to join a new team, with Trek Factory Racing among his potential destinations. Nibali, who turns 31 Saturday, is due to decide ahead of the Giro.