Vincenzo Nibali is officially the team leader of the Italian team in Sunday's road race at the World Championships but serious doubts remain about the form of the Tour de France winner and how he will perform.
Nibali did not race for 50 days after winning the Tour de France and completing a series of post-Tour criteriums. He was back in action last week at the Trittico Lombardo and at the Memorial Pantani and GP di Prato but failed to finished three of the five races. He also crashed on his left hip in the Tre Valli Varesine race and according to Gazzetta dello Sport is struggling to recover from his injuries and may need a skin transplant at the end of the season. The wound is apparently open and slightly infected.
“There's no point in hiding it, it hurts. When I start riding it bothers me but it gets better when I warm up,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “Before going to bed (on Monday) I got a scalpel and took quite a bit of asphalt and infected material out of it. It's a little better but is far from healed.”
The Sicilian is conscious that he does not have the form to be competitive in the World Championships. Gazzetta suggest he is annoyed that his Astana team forced him to travel to Kazakhstan for a week in late August to celebrate his Tour de France victory rather than allowing him to train at home.
The Astana team has also insisted that Nibali misses Il Lombardia and instead rides the Tour of Almaty in Kazakhstan on the same day. Gazzetta dello Sport has revealed that he will also miss the presentation of the Giro d'Italia because the Kazakhstan delegation have him invited to go hunting.
“I don't want to go. I've never shot a gun in my life. I don't like to shoot and I'm not interested in hunting. I also want to be at the presentation. Let's see what happens,” Gazzetta report Nibali as saying.
“To prepare for the World Championships it would have been good not to go to Kazhastan (in August) and put off the trip until October.”
Italian national coach Davide Cassani is aware of Nibali's form but insists he will have a role in the team, even if it is only symbolic.
“It's normal that Vincenzo does not have the same feeling as when he won the Tour but he'll still be very useful to the team. He's our point of reference,” Cassani said.
The Italian team will travel to Spain today after a final long training ride in Italy.
Cassani has to select his final nine riders and the two reserves. Nibali, Fabio Aru, Daniele Bennati, Giampaolo Caruso, Sonny Colbrelli, Alessandro De Marchi, Manuel Quinziato and Giovanni Visconti seemed assured of places, with the final Azzurra jersey going to either Damiano Caruso, Davide Formolo and Edoardo Zardini.