Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has declared himself satisfied with his showing at Tirreno-Adriatico despite struggling on the summit finish at Monte Terminillo and finishing the race in 16th place overall, exactly two minutes down on winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
“I wasn’t super in this Tirreno-Adriatico but I’m happy all the same because I got in an excellent block of work during the race that I’m sure will turn out to be useful to me,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport, adding that he had expected not to be competitive given his current weight.
“I had never come to this race with so few days of racing [10 – ed.] in my legs. My condition is good but not enough to win. I’m at 9 percent body fat and I’m certain that the riders who finished ahead of me are leaner. I can get to 6 percent. So you understand why I’m happy? Because once I shed the dead weight…”
The race offered Nibali a rare chance to examine some of his Tour de France rivals up close, and he said that he had “expected something more” from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), who finished the race in 5th place overall, but acknowledged that Quintana “went really strongly.”
The decision to race to the top of the Terminillo despite the snowfall on Sunday was met with criticism by a number of riders, and has further ignited the debate over the need for a set protocol on racing in extreme conditions following the cancellation of a stage of the Tour of Oman last month due to intense heat.
“When it’s three degrees with rain and snow, it’s hard to ride, the risks become too high,” Nibali said. “But it depends on the route as well. It was worse on Monday with 210 kilometres in the rain with climbs and descents than it was climbing in the snow on Sunday at the Terminillo. After a while, not even neoprene gloves are any use and you can’t steer anymore.”
Despite his misgivings over his condition and the absence of Le Manie from the route, Nibali will line up at Milan-San Remo on Sunday, albeit more in hope than expectation. The Sicilian attacked alone on the Cipressa last year – though he said he had expected Peter Sagan to join forces with him – but ruled out another solitary raid this time around.
“I understand that it’s impossible to get to the finish alone from there because there’s too much road before the Poggio. You get to the foot of the Poggio dead, finished,” Nibali said. “You’d have to bring away a group of four or five riders who work together.”
Nibali listed Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek) as two riders who impressed at Tirreno-Adriatico and who, in theory at least, ought to be interested in avoiding a bunch sprint.
“Van Avermaet’s going well and he can’t wait for the sprint, he has to move before that,” Nibali said. “Cancellara’s another who might be in contention in a sprint but he can’t rely on it. He’s ‘Cance,’ he could go from distance, no problem. Did you see how he was riding?”
As for his own approach, Nibali said: “I’ll have to make a move too. But I’m not the only one who needs to explode the race.”