Vincenzo Nibali ended his 2018 season at the Saitama Tour de France criterium in Japan on Sunday, but has yet to think about his goals and ambitions for 2019 and his team for 2020 and beyond, preferring to enjoy his end of season without worrying about the future.
Nibali travelled to Japan with his wife and agent and spent Monday visiting Tokyo before flying home via London for other meetings and events.
He is due to be questioned by French police at the weekend as both he and Bahrain-Merida push on with legal action for possible damages and loss of earnings after the incident with roadside spectators at the Tour de France that left him with a fractured vertebra.
He will gradually begin riding again at home in Lugano, Switzerland in November before attending a Bahrain-Merida training camp in mid-December to prepare for the 2019 season.
Nibali was relaxed and sun-tanned in Saitama after a holiday in Zanzibar. Before Il Lombardia, he told Cyclingnews that he’d be flattered to receive an offer from Team Sky for 2020 and revealed that talks with Bahrain-Merida had stalled.
In Saitama he joked that Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford had not called him while he was on the beach in Zanzibar, suggesting he will take his time before deciding where he will spend the final years of his Grand Tour career. Trek-Segafredo and UAE Team Emirates have also reportedly shown interest in the 33-year-old Italian for 2020, when the new WorldTour structure and three-year licences begin.
"Nobody called me but I was perhaps difficult to get hold of because I wanted to switch off a bit," Nibali told Cyclingnews with a smile in Saitama. "My agent is aware of all the offers and interest we’ve received. Nothing has changed for the moment. I’m still a Bahrain-Merida rider and so first of all I have to be professional to the end of my contract. There’s a lot of good signs that I could extend my current contract but I’m still considering all my options.
"Bahrain-Merida have shown their interest for the future but I think it’s normal that a rider considers all their options when a contract ends and there are good opportunities that should be considered. Contracts will be confirmed half-way through next year, so at the moment it’s all about understanding and evaluating things for the future."
Giro? Tour? Both?
Nibali preferred the warmth of Zanzibar to the cold of Paris and Milan for the recent route presentations of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. He has admitted he took a brief look at the race routes but is in no rush to decide his 2019 Grand Tour goals.
The Sicilian opted to target the Tour de France in 2018 before his race ended suddenly due to the spectator incident on the slopes of L’Alpe d’Huez. Giro d’Italia race director Mauro Vegni is optimistic that Nibali will return to target a third victory at the Corsa Rosa in 2019 but it seems negotiations with Bahrain-Merida are still ongoing.
Nibali seems tempted by the limited amount of time trials in the 2019 Tour de France but also by the climbing and difficulties of the 2019 Giro d’Italia.
"I only spent 10 hours in Europe before traveling to Japan, so I’ve not seen any real details of the routes. I’ve seen some maps but that’s about it. I was asked to attend the Giro presentation alongside Chris Froome but I booked my holidays last May and so my schedule was set a long time ago," Nibali explained.
"I know the Giro starts in Bologna and then visits Tuscany where I raced when I was junior and under-23 rider. It also has the San Marino mountain time trial and some hard mountain stages and testing descents. I’ve heard the time trial kilometres at the Tour de France are pretty short, too, but that’s all I know.
"However, I haven’t spoken to the Bahrain-Merida management, so it’s difficult to say which will be my biggest goal. In 2019 I could target the Giro or the Tour, or perhaps even both. I often try to alternate my Grand Tour goals but last year I was on form at the Tour and then my race was suddenly interrupted.
"The Giro d’Italia is always special for me because I’m Italian but nothing has been decided yet."