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Vuelta winner given key role in Italian team
Vuelta a Espana winner Vincenzo Nibali is not one of the team leaders in the Italian team for the world championships but is set to play the vital role of late attacker as Italy hopes to eliminate the sprinters and split the field before the finish.
Italian national coach Paolo Bettini has come under fire for not including a sprinter in his team but after a second day of training on the course in Geelong, the Italian team seems designed for an aggressive race on the short climbs of the finishing circuit in Geelong.
As winner of the Vuelta, Nibali could have expected a protected role in almost any national team. However he is not a fast sprinter and so is ready to work for his Italian teammates Filippo Pozzato, Giovanni Visconti and Luca Paolini.
"It's a fast course but the two climbs are tough," Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport after training.
"In the end it'll be testing course, especially if it's windy and nervous on the first part of the race (from Melbourne to Geelong). It reminds me of the world championships in Salzburg, where Bettini won his first of two world titles."
Nibali's role will be to split the peloton with strong attacks on the short, steep climbs, and get rid of riders such as Mark Cavendish, Oscar Freire and Thor Hushovd. Ideally he would drag a small group clear that includes a fast finishing teammate.
"Perhaps I could try a solo attack but there would be a huge risk of taking a small group clear and then getting beaten in the sprint," he explained.
"It'd make more sense to attack with another rider, some one like Visconti, who is fast in a sprint and offers more guarantees of success."
Nibali has been racing since January but insists he is not burnt out after a long season.
"I started my season with the idea of going all the way to the world championships. I came out of the Vuelta on cloud nine and I've recovered well. Now I'm 100% focused on the worlds," he said.
"I've always tried to leave my mark on each season and I feel like I'm an instinctively aggressive rider. I wanted to ride the world championships because I've never been part of the full Italian team as a professional."
"I think I can play a key supporting role in the Italian team. We've got fast riders like Pozzato, Visconti and Paolini who can finish the job off. I'm happy to do the job I'm asked to do by Bettini."
Nibali and the rest of the Italian team will test their form on Sunday in the 130km Herald Sun World Cycling Classic race in Ballarat.
Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara has also confirmed he will now ride, as will Australia's Simon Gerrans and Stuart O'Grady, Belgium's, Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd and Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway.