Nibali is expected to finalise his 2016 race programme later this week when the Astana team gathers in Montecatini Terme in Tuscany before heading to Calpe in Spain for a training camp. In October, Nibali seemed ready to miss the Tour de France and pushed teammate Fabio Aru to make his debut in the French Grand Tour. However the Sicilian confirmed to Gazzetta dello Sport that he is having second thoughts after realising he needs to race in July to be on form to challenge Chris Froome, Alejandro Valverde and other big-name riders for Olympic medals.
“To be on form, you need the Tour,” Nibali told the Italian sports newspaper at an event with component sponsor FSA, where he shared the spotlight with Aru after his victory at the Vuelta a Espana.
“We’re studying things with (Astana coach) Paolo Slongo. It’d be a pretty unusual race programme and perhaps even excessive. But how can I be ready for Rio without the Tour? The Tour of Austria and the Tour de Pologne do not have the same race rhythm but could be a valid alternative: two weeklong races separated by just a day.”
2016 race programme
Nibali will make his season debut at the Tour of San Luis in Argentina with Gazzetta dello Sport suggesting he will then mix training camps at altitude on Mount Teide with blocks of racing. His racing programme could include the Tour of Oman, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo, then Giro del Trentino and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in late April before riding the Giro d’Italia, which begins in the Netherlands on May 5. That would give him 28 days of racing before the start of the Giro d’Italia.
Nibali appeared relaxed and motivated after spending his holidays with his family in Sicily. His pale skin was in sharp contrast to Aru’s dark suntan garnered during a month’s holiday in the sun.
“I’m more relaxed this year. The Astana licence case played a part in making me nervous last year. Everyone was asking me about it, but what could I say?” Nibali said. “Being expelled from the Vuelta also changed me. I still don’t think I was guilty but I’ve learnt several things.”
Future with Astana
Nibali’s contract with Astana ends after the 2016 season and he has already been linked to the Trek Factory Racing team. However he confirmed the Kazakhstani team has twice asked him to extend his contract.
He refused a suggestion by Gazzetta dello Sport that he was not part of Astana’s plans for the future after Aru won the Vuelta and extended his contract until 2017.
“Do you think so?" Nibali replied. “I think my chances are good. They’ve already offered to renew my contract twice, the first time was two days after the Vuelta a Espana and I think that was a sign of respect. The other offer was more recently. They’re interested, so now it’s up to me to choose. I’ll do it based on what is added to my contract. It’s no longer about money but about choices: the races I can do, the programme and who will be with me. I don’t want to go to races angry, I want to be happy.”
Nibali also spoke about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and admitted he is concerned about safety at races.
“Our sport is more vulnerable than others. I’m a little bit afraid and not only for the races, where the risks are high. Unfortunately races are an easy target. I think we’ve all got to ask, not only the riders, as many safety checks as possible,” Nibali said.
“Regarding what happened in Paris, I’ve got a simple question that I can’t answer: Why?”