Nibali calls on Sagan, Cancellara and Van Avermaet to back his aggression at Milan-San Remo

Italian talks about his offers for 2017 and his poor relationship with Fabio Aru

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has called on Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara and Greg Van Avermaet to attack with him during the finale of Milan-San Remo to stop the sprinters winning this year’s race.

In a long interview with Gazzetta dello Sport on the eve of La Classicissima, the Sicilian talked about how he hopes to break the sprinters' defensive ‘catenaccio’ tactic but hints his attack will come on the Poggio rather than the Cipressa. Nibali seems inspired by the rare attacks that have succeeded at Milan-San Remo, revealing that the first edition of the race he remembers as a boy was in 1991 when Claudio Chiappucci won alone after attacking on the Turchino and then dropping Rolf Sorensen on the Poggio.

Nibali gave the interview at his home in Lugano, Switzerland, revealing his dislike that a neighbour once spied on him with binoculars while he was riding on the turbo trainer. He also revealed that he is carefully considering offers for 2017 from Astana, Trek-Segafredo but also the expected new Bahrain team.

During Tirreno-Adriatico Nibali had suggested he would never ride Milan-San Remo if the Manie or another climb were not added. True to character he quickly changed his mind, with the cancellation of last Sunday’s key mountain stage leaving him angry and without a chance of fighting for overall victory. He seems determined to channel his anger during the finale of Milan-San Remo.

“I’m riding Milan-San Remo because it’s a beautiful race, because my friends, teammates and tifosi have asked me and because I hope to have a chance to win it,” he said.

“The key to Milan-San Remo is the riders and how they race it. It depends on if we ride hard or if there’s a catenaccio. There’s not one point that decides the race, there are several, including the wind, and there’s always the risk that 80 per cent of the sprinters can make it over the Cipressa and the Poggio.

Nibali revealed that an alliance with Sagan, to attack on the Cipressa in 2014, was stopped by the Slovakian’s team via race radio. He hopes the world champion and others will join forces with him this year but acknowledges that attacks on the Cipressa are futile. He lists Fabian Cancellara as the favourite for victory, followed by Sagan.

“There are some important riders like Van Avermaet, Sagan, Cancellara that, like me, have to try something. Otherwise, there are riders like [Fernando] Gaviria, [Alexander] Kristoff, [Nacer] Bouhanni and [Michael] Matthews, who are superfast in the sprint,” Nibali said.

“It’s difficult that something happens on the Cipressa but you can hurt the sprinters if we ride it hard and fill their legs with lactic acid. The 9.1km between the Cipressa and the Poggio are never ending. If you attack alone, they’re never ending. I died there in 2014.”

Nibali is more likely to go on the attack on the Poggio.

“The Poggio is six minutes of pain and lactic acid. I hope to have the legs so I don’t have to sit on with the sprinters,” he concluded.

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Nibali’s future and his non-existent relationship with Fabio Aru

Nibali is in the last year of his contract with Astana and as the only Grand Tour winner on the market, he has attracted serious attention from Trek-Segafredo, Lampre-Merida and the new Bahrain Cycling Team that is reportedly under construction and could have Bjarne Riis as team manager.

Nibali has also received an offer from Astana team manager Alexander Vinokourov and could stay with the Kazakhstan team. However, he reveals that his relationship with compatriot and fellow team leader Fabio Aru is almost non-existent, suggesting that neither wants to race together in 2017. Aru has a contract with Astana through to the end of 2017 and will lead the team at this year’s Tour de France. There seems little chance that Nibali will want to play second fiddle to his younger teammate.

“I raced with Basso and I’ve noticed the difference between the two, there’s an abyss,” he said, openly critical of Aru. “Ivan was very open; you rarely saw him angry. Not because he was old but because he was wise. Fabio often gets upset and he’s short-tempered. At the time with Ivan I was young but I was different: I followed what Ivan did. Fabio never asks anything; he doesn’t consider you. He trusts other people, especially Paolo Tiralongo, who has raced with lots of different of leaders and has lots of experience.”

Nibali said his decision on his future team depends on several factors, with money, not the most important thing. “After the Giro d’Italia –where I think I’ve got a good chance of winning, it’ll be time to make a decision,” he said.

“It’s far more than a just a matter of economics. The most important thing is my group: my teammates, coach, soigneur, doctor, etc. The team’s project is also important if the team believes in me, there’s got to be total trust, without any question.”

Nibali complained about a lack of support from the Astana team last season but has the support of better riders for his 2016 race programme, including Jakob Fuglsang and new signing Eros Capecchi. Vinokourov is keen to re-sign Nibali and like Trek-Segafredo has made a serious offer.

“When you change things, you know what you might leave behind but never know what you’re going to find,” Nibali said revealing that doubts remain about his choice for the future. “I’ve got to say that this year we’ve started the season really well. I’m happy. Vino has made his offer and it includes a list of big bonuses.
“Before I was coached by Paolo Slongo, I would have liked to have worked with (Trek-Segafredo team manager) Luca Guercilena; that’s a sign of how much respect I have for him. They have made their offer because they want a Grand Tour rider. But I’m not really sure if they’re interested in me.”

Nibali does not talk about the offer from Lampre-Merida, reserving a final thought on the possible Bahrain team.

“Everyone knows I’ve met the Prince, we met in Dubai (in 2015). He’s got a project in mind. Let’s see if it happens…” Nibali said, without revealing the true state of any negotiations.

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