Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) is ready to lead the Italian team at the World Championships in Valkenburg in the wake of the news that the national federation (FCI) is to bar riders named in ongoing doping investigations and riders who have previously tested positive from selection.
When Cyclingnews spoke to Italian coach Paolo Bettini on the eve of Amstel Gold Race in April, he hinted that Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) would be among his leaders at the Worlds.
Nibali’s consistent form in the intervening period has catapulted him ahead of them in the list of potential captains, however, and the FCI’s rumoured selection policy now all but confirms that the Sicilian will be the outright leader on September 23.
“I’m enthusiastic about the idea of a young national team with me as the point of reference,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I have a bit more experience [than the rest of the team] but in terms of spirit, desire and curiosity, I feel very young.”
Though still only 27 years of age, Nibali looks set to be one of the elder statesmen of the Italian squad, but he is confident that he will be on the same wavelength as his younger companions. His Liquigas stablemate Moreno Moser is expected to get the nod for Valkenburg, along with double junior world champion Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD).
“Moreno Moser and Diego Ulissi, to name two of the guys mentioned by Paolo Bettini, are riders of real worth, Classics riders. They’re the two I know best,” Nibali said. “Enrico Battaglin is another with great qualities, but I don’t know him well and this year our calendars have been different.”
The Sardinian talent Fabio Aru will race alongside Nibali at Astana next year, and he has already impressed his future leader during a spell as a stagiare at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. He will compete at Under-23 level in Valkenburg. “In Colorado, he was on the attack a lot and even finished second on a stage,” Nibali said. “He’s already shown real quality.”
Nibali will prepare for the Worlds at the Giro di Padania, which gets underway on Monday. The first edition of the race in 2011 attracted considerable criticism for its political connotations and ties to the Lega Nord party, and was even interrupted by protests, but Nibali is hopeful for a less controversial race this time around.
“I’ll ride for the general classification. The most important two stages will be the last two. I have happy memories of the Passo della Bocchetta. At the Giro dell’Appennino in 2009, I got to the summit alone and went on to win alone,” he said.