Vincenzo Nibali was not at the 2014 Tour de France presentation on Wednesday, preferring a cruise for cyclists organised by Gazzetta dello Sport to a day in Paris. However he no doubt liked the testing route, knowing that the limited amount of time trials and five mountain finishes will give him a chance to challenge Chris Froome for overall victory. Nibali finished third in the 2012 Tour de France, behind Bradley Wiggins and Froome.
The inclusion of a series of steep climbs, narrow roads and testing descents will also suit the Sicilian, with Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli revealing that Nibali could ride the Tour of Flanders to prepare for the cobbled stage.
"It's a good Tour for Vincenzo," Martinelli told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"There are stages with hard climbs that are largely unknown and its been years that the Tour hasn't done them all in the same edition of the race. It'll be important to know the roads but there's no point in going crazy with the reconnaissance. It's good for us that there's only 54km of time trialing because that's where we loose out to Froome a little bit."
Martinelli admitted that he is worried about the nine sections and 15.4km of cobbles on stage five in northern France. Nibali often targets the one-day Classics but not the cobbled Spring Classics. The Tour de France cobbles could mean he could includes the Tour of Flanders in his 2014 race programme, to get a taste of racing on the cobbles.
"The only bad thing about the Tour is the pave, even if we expected it," Martinelli said.
"The stage will make us consider a new strategy and different choices when it comes to our preparation. Training on the cobbles doesn’t make much sense because racing is so different to training. Paris-Roubaix is too extreme for Vincenzo but perhaps it's worth riding the Tour of Flanders."
"Vincenzo has to learn how to ride on those kind of roads. Because of the climbs in the Tour of Flanders, we could also bring home a good result."
Nibali won the 2013 Giro d'Italia and finished second in the Vuelta a Espana but is expected to focus on the Tour de France in 2014, with Astana building a team of strong climbers to help him take on Froome and Team Sky in France in July.