Vincenzo Nibali has reiterated that he will not ride the Giro d'Italia despite speculation in the Italian press last week that he might be drafted in to Astana's line-up following Fabio Aru's recent bout of illness.
"I've already said 'no' many times. I won't be present at the Giro d'Italia, it's not in my programme," Nibali told Swiss radio station RSI on the eve of the Tour de Romandie, a stance he reiterated in an interview with the race organisation.
"In my programme there's only the Tour de Romandie for the moment, and the Tour de France. I deny all the rumours circulating concerning me and the Giro d'Italia."
As in 2014, Nibali lines up at the Tour de Romandie without a win to his name so far this season, though he showed some signs of life during the Ardennes Classics, attacking in the finale of Amstel Gold Race and placing 13th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, though he was dropped after trying to break clear on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas.
Twelve months ago, Nibali took fifth overall at the Tour de Romandie, but he was coy about what he might achieve this time around. "We'll see day by day and stage by stage. There are a lot of riders here in good condition," Nibali said, adding that his teammate Jakob Fuglsang also had general classification aspirations for Astana.
The Swiss event sees Nibali face off against Chris Froome (Sky) in a stage race for the first time this season, while another Tour rival, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), is also on hand. Froome has won the race in each of the past two seasons, but has had a mixed campaign thus far in 2015. After winning the Ruta del Sol in February, Froome missed Tirreno-Adriatico through illness and struggled at the Volta a Catalunya, before crashing in the finale of Flèche Wallonne last week.
"I don't know. It's hard to say about Quintana or Froome. Quintana didn't do a lot at the Classics and we only saw Froome at Flèche Wallonne, and they both had crashes," Nibali told RSI.
Last week, the UCI Licence Commission ruled that Astana would keep its WorldTour status despite concerns raised by the governing following a spate of positive tests last year and a subsequent audit of the team's anti-doping policies carried out by researchers from the University of Lausanne.
"I was always quite tranquillo about this matter, in the sense that whether it went well or whether it went badly, we'd have looked to find a solution," Nibali said.
Fabio Aru, meanwhile, has reportedly recovered from the stomach virus that ruled him out of the Giro del Trentino last week, and is currently in Sestriere at altitude training camp, where he will remain until May 4. The Giro d'Italia gets underway in San Remo on May 9.