Vincenzo Nibali is confident that his Liquigas-Cannondale stablemate Ivan Basso has turned a corner after a troubled start to his 2012 campaign, and he expects the veteran to be among the chief contenders for overall honours at the Giro d’Italia.
Such was Basso’s poor form in the early part of the season that he considered forgoing the Giro altogether, but Nibali said that he saw a marked improvement in his teammate’s condition during a training camp on Mount Teide, Tenerife in April. A podium finisher in each of the past two editions of the race, Nibali will this year return to the Tour de France at the behest of his team, while Basso leads the line in Italy.
“I saw Ivan when we did the training camp in Tenerife. He wasn’t in the greatest of condition because he had a series of bad luck but there in Tenerife, he wanted to get back on the right track by training hard, as he only he can,” Nibali told Radio Sportiva. “I have to say that in those days he already improved a lot, and then I could see at the Giro del Trentino and the Tour de Romandie that his condition was really growing, so I’m certain that at the Giro d’Italia he can do great things.”
Whereas the 2011 Giro had one outright favourite in the shape of Alberto Contador, this year’s race boasts a cluster of riders who have genuine aspirations of carrying the pink jersey to Milan. Like many observers, Nibali has noted his former Liquigas stablemate Roman Kreuziger (Astana) as a dark horse for victory.
Fifth overall and best young rider last year, Kreuziger has been pedalling smoothly in recent weeks. Third overall behind Nibali at Tirreno-Adriatico in March, the Czech was also quietly to the fore at the Giro del Trentino and the Tour de Romandie.
“Roman Kreuziger is someone who I think has really been aiming very much at the Giro this year, because if you look at the route of the Giro d’Italia a bit, it’s not really as hard as it was last year,” Nibali said. “Last year was a very difficult Giro, with very few flat stages, and even those often finished with a little climb, whereas this year it might be a Giro more for the passisti.”
While Nibali expects the final days in the Dolomites to prove decisive, he warned that some of the rolling stages that dot the opening two weeks could pose their own questions of the overall contenders. “A lot of things can happen in a 21-day race,” he said. “The stages in Denmark will be tough because of the wind, so you’ll have to be attentive straightaway. Then in intermediate stages are sometimes so fast that the peloton explodes. Normally the riders who need to be up there are alert and awake to that, so it’s hard for something to happen here, but it might.”
Interest from Astana and BMC
While Nibali’s immediate future will see him race the Tour of California and Critérium du Dauphiné ahead of the Tour de France, his destination for 2013 has been the source of considerable speculation since the beginning of the season. With his contract set to expire at the end of the year, Nibali began talks with Liquigas the day after Liège-Bastogne-Liège on a new contract rumoured to be worth €1.8 million a year.
Nibali has also attracted the interest of a number of foreign teams, including Astana and BMC. Gazzetta dello Sport reported last week that the two squads have tabled offers worth €500,000 more than Liquigas’ proposed new contract.
“There have been a lot of offers, some important ones,” Nibali said. “This week, I’ve been very tranquillo at home. We were able to talk with Liquigas straight after the classics, so negotiations are ongoing with them. It’s all still to be seen and there are a lot of things to be cleared up, but in the days that come we might know more.”