Nibali confident ahead of Vuelta defence

Italian picks out Antón and Rodríguez as his two principal rivals

After spending the last week checking out climbs that are new to him, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) says that he has the motivation and form to put up a strong defence of his Vuelta a España title. Speaking on the eve of the race, the Liquigas rider also picked out Igor Antón and Joaquim Rodríguez as his two biggest rivals.

“They are a level above the rest because the race is taking place in their home country and they are sure to be protagonists,” Nibali told Europa Press.

Nibali added that he would also keeping a close watch on Denis Menchov and Michele Scarponi, “without forgetting” Bradley Wiggins and Jurgen Van den Broeck.

With regard to his own hopes, Nibali says the key to success for him is “tranquillity, I don’t want to load myself with too much pressure and feel obliged to win. My team has 100 per cent confidence in me and I hope that the final result will be the same as last year.”

The Sicilian said he’s glad to be back in Spain after taking last year’s Vuelta title. “That gave me enormous satisfaction, repeating it will be difficult, but I feel mentally strong and have a great deal of determination. I’ve got a committed team behind me and they are prepared to do all they can to help me win again.”

Nibali has followed a similar path into the Vuelta as he did last year. After finishing third in the Giro d’Italia, he took a few days rest, then spent July at an high-altitude training camp on the San Pellegrino pass in Italy. “When I returned to racing I felt good, much as I did last year.

“I’ve not raced much in Spain and last year I only found out day to day what the route was demanding of me. Last week I looked over some of the stages that are completely new to me, some of the mountains that I don’t know and roads that I’ve never raced on before. But I don’t really worry about the stages too much because I adapt well to every kind of terrain, although if I do get the chance I do like to check them over.”

No one has managed to retain the Vuelta title since Roberto Heras in 2004. If he can pull off the double, Nibali would become the first Italian to achieve the feat at the Vuelta.

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