Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) lines up at Flèche Wallonne hoping to make more of an impact than he did at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, where he finished in a lowly 104th, seven minutes down on winner Enrico Gasparotto (Astana).
It was Nibali’s first race since Milan-San Remo four weeks previously, and after spending much of the intervening period in a training camp on Tenerife at Mount Teide, he admitted that he had some difficulties in adjusting again to race rhythm. Nibali had enjoyed a fine start to the season, including overall victory at Tirreno-Adriatico.
“On Sunday I didn’t succeed in being as competitive as I would have liked, but it was certainly a useful work-out to readapt after the training camp at altitude,” Nibali said.
Nibali’s primary target this week is Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he finished in a solid 8th place twelve months ago, but he will look to fine-tune his condition at Flèche Wallonne.
“My hope for Wednesday is to be sharper and to be able to cope with the changes in rhythm with greater ease, especially on the Mur de Huy,” he said.
In spite of the alterations to the course for this year, Nibali expects the final haul up the storied Mur to prove decisive once again. The Sicilian, whose best showing at Flèche Wallonne is his 12th place of 2010, explained that positioning and nous are every bit as important as raw power on the 1.3 kilometre climb.
“It’s the point where you need to make the difference, and not just with the legs,” he said. “You need to have the clarity of mind to move at the right time, to understand the situation and your opponents. And if you get blocked on that climb, arrivederci…”
Nibali is flanked at Flèche Wallonne by a youthful squad, including 21-year-old Moreno Moser. Directeur sportif Alberto Volpi insisted that “putting our faith in the youngsters isn’t a gamble, but a choice made with conviction. They showed at Amstel that they were up to it, riding with intelligence and generosity.”
Liquigas and Nibali are also expected to make a decision in the coming days as to his participation at the Giro d’Italia. Originally slated to lead Liquigas at the Tour de France, Nibali could yet be called into action for the Giro following Ivan Basso’s struggle for form thus far this season. Basso is currently in action at the Giro del Trentino.