Nibali struggled during his return to action at the Tour de Pologne last week, his first race since winning the Giro d’Italia in May. He spent two weeks off the bike immediately after the Giro and also travelled to Kazakhstan on two occasions to fulfil commitments to his team’s backers.
“I won’t deny that I expected him to be a bit further ahead, not so much in terms of results but in terms of condition,” Martinelli told Gazzetta dello Sport. “After the Giro, he left things go a bit too much and when he got back a lot of time had passed. The two trips to Kazakhstan were heavy going, especially the second one. But I’m still confident because the boy has talent and determination.”
Nibali finished a discreet 53rd in Poland and Martinelli said that he suffered in the race’s opening days in Italy in particular due to the lack of a solid base of training in the month beforehand.
“We spoke after the final time trial in Poland. He’s missing strength because he wasn’t able to do specific work for two months,” Martinelli said. “Furthermore, the first two days in Trentino were very hard and with a sufficient base of work behind him, he found it hard to recover. But maybe I’m more worried than he is.”
Nibali lines up at the Vuelta a Burgos on Wednesday as he continues his preparation for the Vuelta a España, which gets underway on August 24. Martinelli is hopeful that Nibali’s hampered build-up might ultimately play to his advantage in the Vuelta’s tough third week.
“I’m comforted by what Joaquim Rodriguez did at the Tour, where he didn’t start very brightly but then got better as it went on. In three weeks, there’s time to improve,” Martinelli said. “Indeed, this delay might be good for the Worlds. But I don’t want to think about that for now. We’re going to Spain to win.”
Martinelli also spoke of his desire to strengthen the Astana line-up for 2014. The team has already signed Lieuwe Westra and Franco Pellizotti (even though it conflicts with MPCC protocol) and Martinelli has made no secret of his interest in acquiring Nairo Quintana, although the Colombian’s agent told Cyclingnews on Tuesday that he will remain with Movistar next season.
“I think he is the dream of a lot of teams. When a 23-year-old finishes second in his debut Tour, it’s normal that he appeals to everyone,” said Martinelli, who is also keeping tabs on a brace of Euskaltel-Euskadi riders. “I also like Mike Nieve but we’re not prepared just to throw away money. I like Mikel Landa even more, and he’d make a great pairing with Fabio Aru. But everything depends on how the Quintana situation develops.”