With baby on the way, Nibali gets early jump on Tour rivals

After off-season full of commitments, Italian is the first of the major Tour de France favorites to open his 2014 campaign

MIRADOR DE EL POTRERO, Argentina (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is getting the early jump this week on his Tour de France rivals at the Tour de San Luís. He is the only one of the top Tour favorites to have opened his 2014 season.

“I only have to think about starting the season well, not to put on too many kilograms, because when we are near the big races it can come too difficult,” the Italian told VeloNews. “It’s easier for me when I already have a good weight; from that point I can work on the specifics.”

Reigning Tour champion Chris Froome (Sky) and former best young rider Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) will open the season Feb. 18 at the Tour of Oman. Another top favorite, two-time winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), will kick off his 2014 campaign a day later at the Volta ao Algarve.

The Tour de San Luís started Monday, one day before the Santos Tour Down Under in Adelaide, Australia. Outside Tour favorite Fränk Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) is starting his comeback from a doping ban in Australia. Another outsider, Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), is riding with Nibali in San Luís.

Nibali won the Giro d’Italia last year and placed third in the 2012 Tour. He explained that the early start and two high-altitude training camps in Tenerife should play a key part in his Tour-winning bid.

The sun brought the temperature up to 95 degrees for Monday’s first stage — a far cry from his home base in Lugano, Switzerland, where snow has forced him indoors and onto the trainer. Nibali, dressed in his blue Astana kit, found shade in the team’s car. It was hot, but he was happy to be in San Luís.

“I’m more relaxed when I’m at the races than when I’m at home, because at home people call or invite you here and there. I don’t have obligations here. I’m here to just race along, if something good comes out of it then good,” he said. “In the last months, I wasn’t able to train much because of so many requirements. To be here already, putting in 10 days in the heat, is good. I’m putting in the miles here, so when I get home I’m okay if I have to miss some training.”

Baby on the way

Nibali’s wife, Rachele Perinelli, is due to give birth to their baby girl on Feb. 20, after Nibali returns from the Dubai Tour, which holds its first edition Feb. 5-9. Because of the birth, he will skip the Tour of Oman where he raced last season.

“Depending on if our baby girl comes earlier or later I may have to decide to skip a race,” Nibali said. “I’ll be at home for the birth, for sure. It’s our first baby. It’s an important life event.”

With a hopeful run at yellow in July, Nibali will look to add to important life events in 2014.