Speculation and unconfirmed reports had been circulating that Nibali might take part in the Giro d’Italia alongside teammate Fabio Aru, third in the 2014 Giro d’Italia and the Astana leader for this year’s race. But Martinelli insists that won’t be the case.
Asked if it was 100 per cent certain that Nibali would not race in the Giro, Martinelli told Cyclingnews, “yes, yes, it’s definitive.”
“He has the Tour de France in his head and he’s 100 per cent focused on that.”
Whilst Martinelli’s comments resolve any doubts about Nibali’s objectives in the mid-term, short-term the Italian is currently down to take part in all three Ardennes Classics, as in 2014. Last year, Nibali finished 52nd in Amstel Gold, 14th in la Fleche Wallonne and 30th in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
La Doyenne, on paper, is where Nibali is at his strongest, where he took a memorable second place in 2012 following a gutsy late lone attack that only fell apart on the final ascent to Ans. And Martinelli confirmed that Nibali will be building up in the first two Ardennes Classics “so his confidence is at 100 per cent for Liege. It’s only by being in these one-day races right from the word go that you feel at ease when it matters.”
That said, as Martinelli agrees, Nibali is not yet at peak condition. “His form is still a little bit off 100 per cent, because he wants to be at 100 per cent for the Tour de France. Whenever Nibali starts a race, you can’t ever rule him out of finding a way through [to success]. But he’s still building towards the second part of the season. I think we’ll have a good Nibali at the Tour de Romandie” - his next stage race after the Ardennes - “where he’ll be at 90 per cent of his top condition.”
“Liege-Bastogne-Liege suits him the best. And he’ll be in good condition for that. Amstel’s a bit tricky for him, [because] it’s not as tough [a race].”
Although the media’s and public’s main focus will be on Nibali at the Maastricht start tomorrow, Martinelli emphasizes that Astana’s other possible challengers are Jakob Fuglsang, a former top-five finisher in Amstel and Lieuwe Westra “who can get in breaks and who’s racing at home, too”.
As for fellow-Dutchman Lars Boom, after taking part in the cobbled Classics, “we’ll see what he can do, he’s going to start but he’s been going flat out since the early part of the year and his Classics season is pretty much over. I think Fuglsang and Nibali will be up there tomorrow. [Sunday].”