Giacomo Nizzolo will return to racing at the Tour of Croatia

Italian uncertain of form after bout with knee tendinitis

After spending the first several months of the year battling knee tendonitis, Giacomo Nizzolo will make his 2017 racing debut next week at the Tour of Croatia, Trek-Segafredo has announced.

The Italian national champion last raced in October of 2016 at the Abu Dhabi Tour, where he won a stage, but since December he has been bothered by knee pain, which forced him to continuously delay his first days of competition this year. After the long layoff, Nizzolo has ridden for three weeks without pain and is ready to toe the start line again.

"I am happy to start racing again," Nizzolo said via a Trek-Segafredo release. "I have missed the adrenaline. And I am really looking forward to being with the team again, too. Since we talked the last time, things didn't go well every day, and there were still some setbacks, but I can say that the last 20 days everything has gone smoothly, and I could train in a regular way.

"I've done four, five, six hours on the bike without any problems, so that gives me a bit of confidence, even though I have still my physical condition to build up further. Let's say that, since I've been training for 20 days now, my body feels like it's December. The only problem is that for the other guys it is April and they have the Classics in the legs, so it will be interesting to see how that will go."

Nizzolo had a successful Croatia campaign last year, but says he has to be 'realistic' about his chances too much this time around given the lack of training mileage in his legs.

"I've been without racing for almost six months, so I will have to get used to the speed and to riding in the bunch again," he said. "But, for sure, as always I will keep fighting till the end and try to win a stage again. I hope to improve day by day during the race, but I am well aware that my first challenge will be to stay with the peloton until the end and then, who knows … But again, we have to stay realistic and take the race day by day and see how it goes."

The real target for Nizzolo is the Giro d'Italia, where he has won the points classification two years in a row. Whether he'll make it to the start remains unclear, with his form an unknown even if he is in the Trek line-up for the Italian Grand Tour.

"The Giro is close but at the same time still far away," continued Nizzolo. "First let's get through the Tour of Croatia, and then we will see. I think, and I hope I will be there, but it goes without saying that if I am there, it won't be with the same legs, the same feeling, the same condition as last year."

The Tour of Croatia starts April 18 in Osijek and concludes April 23 in Zagreb.

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