Celebrated as best Italian rider of the season
Vincenzo Nibali ended the 2013 season in fifth place in the final UCI WorldTour individual rankings but is arguably the world's most consistent rider of the season after winning the Giro d'Italia and finishing second in the Vuelta a Espana.
No other rider finished on the podium in two Grand Tours in 2013. Nibali also won Tirreno-Adriatico in March, the Giro del Trentino in April and was fourth in the world road race championships in Tuscany. He raced for 85 days, finishing in the top ten over times.
Nibali was feted as the best Italian rider at the Gran Gala Ciclistico Internazionale awards night in Conegliano on Monday night, where he reiterated that the Tour de France will be his big goal of 2014.
The 28 year-old Sicilian currently stands head and shoulders above the rest of the Italian peloton. He is at the peak of his career, while the likes of Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi are past their best and the next generation has yet to emerge and win major races.
"It's great to be number one (in the Gran Gala classification). It's just a pity not to be number one in the UCI rankings even though everyone knows what I've won this year," Nibali told Gazetta dello Sport at the Gran Gala event.
"Perhaps the way the points are awarded is wrong and needs rethinking. To be honest it's not something I think about too much when I race. I prefer to race."
The Tour de France in 2014
Nibali has yet to confirm that he won’t defend his Giro d'Italia victory in 2014 but the Tour de France is his major goal for next season, with little possibility of him going for the double. Nibali is expected to start his 2014 season at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina but will finalise his race programme after a winter get together in late November.
"The one thing that is sure is that I'm going back to the Tour. I haven't spoken to the team about programmes and so we haven't decided things yet."
Pushed to make a personal choice, Nibali revealed he's keen to fly the flag for Italy at the Tour de France.
"The Giro is a great race but I'd like to focus on the Tour. I want to ride it to win it, for me and for everyone in Italy."
A stronger Astana team in 2014
The Astana team has strengthened its roster to back Nibali in the Tour de France and take on Chris Froome and Team Sky.
Franco Pellizotti, Mikel Landa and Lieuwe Westra are set to ride in the Astana colours, with rumours that either Michele Scarponi or Ivan Basso could join the team.
Basso confirmed to Cyclingnews that he will stay at Cannondale in 2014, where Tinkoff is expected to help boost the team's budget but he could be tempted by a better offer from Astana. Scarponi has yet to secure a team for 2014.
Nibali avoided choosing between the two but seemed to indicate that one of them will be part of his team for 2014.
"Scarponi is a great climber just like Basso, who I've got a special friendship with. Don't ask me to choose between them," he said.