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Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Astana leader shows he is ready for Tirreno-Adriatico
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) rode aggressively at the Roma Maxima race on Sunday but yet again came away empty handed, with Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale) taking the biggest win of his career after a day of grace.
The Astana team leader had led the chase of the Frenchman but despite working well with four other riders, Kadri stayed away to win alone. Nibali and the chasers were caught by the peloton, with the Sicilian finishing 40th at 48 seconds. His lack of a sprint finish means he has to go on the attack if he wants to win but it often forces him into all or nothing situations. He gets the praise for racing aggressively but other riders get the glory of victory.
"We tried to catch him, we went hard but he did a great ride," Nibali said.
"We worked together pretty well and we were going at 55km/h but it was a fast run-in to the finish and he held us off. In the end we knew we were riding for second place and that's when we started messing around and got caught.
"It's pity because we rode a good race as a team. Agnoli is from around here and so wanted to have a go. When he was caught, I had a go on the Campi di Annibale climb as we went over the top. It was a long way from the finish but I was hoping a few other strong riders would come with us. There were five of us but it wasn't enough."
Nibali headed to Tuscany after Roma Maxima to rest up and train before the start of Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday. He won the week-long stage race last year, defeating Chris Horner to lift the special trident trophy and pull on the race winner's blue jersey.
Despite becoming the protected team leader at Astana this year and now in his prime as a stage race rider, Nibali knows he faces much tough opposition this year, with Alberto Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff), Chris Froome (Team Sky), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) all riding the race of the two seas.
"There are some big-name riders coming to Italy. I'll try and race well and take them on and we'll see what happens," he said.
"I'm not afraid of them but I respect them. I'll race Tirreno-Adriatico wearing number one. That means something and is a good start."