Two months after dominating the Giro d'Italia, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is back in action at the Tour of Poland, two kilos above his race weight but motivated to kick off the second half of his season and is already thinking about an expected clash with Chris Froome at the 2014 Tour de France.
The 28 year-old Sicilian's next big goal is the world road race title in Tuscany at the end of September. The Tour of Poland is the first step toward that goal with the Vuelta Espana also part of his build-up.
While the world of cycling has been focused on the Tour de France, Nibali spent two weeks training at altitude in the Dolomites –where he sealed his victory in the Giro d'Italia and where the Tour of Poland starts with two mountain stages on Saturday and Sunday before transferring north to Krakow.
"After winning the Giro I was kept pretty busy, I had a weeklong holiday and then started training again. We held a camp in the Dolomites with 16 Astana riders training together for two weeks," Nibali explained to Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I haven’t done a lot of training and I've put on two kilos. That's annoying but I know I've got time to make up for it. We'll see how I go in Poland. The most important thing is to not get stressed out to stay the front because my goals for this second part of the season are the Vuelta and the world championships."
Taking on Froome in 2014
Nibali watched the Tour de France on television, carefully observing Froome, Contador, Quintana and Rodriguez as they battled for the places on the final podium. He has already confirmed that he will target the Tour de France in 2014, meaning he will almost certainly not defend his victory at the Giro d'Italia.
"To go for the Tour de France, you've got to be at your very best form. I'll be giving it 100%," he said on Italian television recently.
"This year Hesjedal and Evans didn't do well at the Tour after riding the Giro. It's the harsh reality of modern Grand Tours. To do well at the Tour, you've got to be at your very best."
Nibali knows he had to improve at time trialing if he wants to challenge Froome in 2014 but is confident of his chances after defeating the Kenyan-born Briton at Tirreno-Adriatico with an aggressive attack in the rain.
"We've raced against each other quite a but this year, in Oman and at Tirreno-Adriatico, really giving it a go," he said.
"Tirreno went my way and then I also won the Giro. Every season is different but I'm confident about taking on Froome in 2014. It should be an intriguing battle."