Prospects of Olympic gold could lure Nibali to 2016 Tour

Vincenzo Nibali will race the Giro d'Italia in May, but he might use the Tour de France as final prep for the Olympic road race in Rio.

The prospect of an Olympic gold medal could lure Vincenzo Nibali to race the Tour de France next summer, but only as a preparation race.

The Italian star has already outlined his top goals for 2016, and a return to the Giro d’Italia is right at the top of the list. Yet the presence of a climb-heavy Olympic road race course in Rio de Janeiro next August is too tempting, and Nibali hinted he might race the Tour as well in order to be in top shape for a shot at Olympic glory.

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Nibali said it would be difficult to replicate the racing miles of the Tour in another event or training camp ahead of the Olympics.

“To be in top form, you need to race the Tour,” Nibali told the paper. “We are studying it. It would be difficult to replicate the rhythm at other races, like the Tour of Austria or Poland, but they could serve as an alternative to the Tour.”

Nibali will take a closer look at the Olympic course in early January before making his season debut at the Tour de San Luis (January 18-24). He’s next scheduled to race the Tour of Oman (February 16-21), Strade Bianche (March 5), GP Prato (March 6), Tirreno-Adriatico (March 9-15), Milano-Sanremo (March 19), Giro del Trentino (April 19-22), and Liège-Bastogne-Liege (April 24) before the Giro (May 6-20). He also has at least two high-altitude training camps at Teide planned during that approach to the Giro.

Astana has already promised to Fabio Aru he would make his Tour de France debut next season. After taking an emotional Vuelta a España victory in September, Aru wants his shot at the Tour.

Nibali, meanwhile, has plotted a return to the Giro, with a racing schedule similar to his approach to the pink jersey in 2013. If he does indeed race the Tour, especially if he comes off a victory at the Giro, Nibali would likely let Aru carry the weight of the expectations, and use the Tour as promised to prepare for the Olympics.