Speaking at the Bahrain-Merida team presentation in Hvar, Croatia, on Wednesday afternoon, Nibali outlined his plans, noting a third Giro d’Italia victory would be his principal objective of the coming season.
“I’ll try to reach the Giro in top condition. From then, we’ll see what energy I have left for the Tour. But I want to do well there too, and we’ll go there with a very strong team,” Nibali said.
Nibali has ridden the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same season on two previous occasions. As a young rider in 2008, he placed 11th at the Giro d’Italia before finishing his debut Tour de France in 20th overall. In 2016, Nibali claimed overall victory at the Giro d’Italia before placing 30th in the Tour de France, which he rode expressly in preparation for the Rio Olympics.
2019 ought to mark Nibali’s first concerted attempt at winning the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same year, although he stressed that the extent of his ambition in July would depend wholly on how well he recovers from his efforts in May. He is set to race more sparingly in the opening part of the 2019 season with the Giro-Tour double in mind.
European debut in 2019
Bahrain-Merida confirmed that Nibali would make his season debut at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana on February 6. He will then ride the new UAE Tour (Feb 25-March 2) that is part of the WorldTour and Tirreno-Adriatico (March 13-19). He will defend his Milan-San Remo title on Saturday March 23. The Grand Tour training will begin in early April at altitude with Nibali riding the Tour of the Alps (April 22-26) and liege-Bastogne-Liege before the Giro d’Italia. He is unlikely to race any other stage races between the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.
“It will depend on my condition and how I come out of the Giro. The Giro uses up a lot of strength. I have tried to do two Grand Tours in recent years and it’s difficult, especially when you do the Giro and Tour together,” said Nibali.
“I’ve had the experience of riding the Giro and Tour, and it’s the most difficult combination. I’ve found it a lot more straightforward to ride the Giro and Vuelta or the Tour and the Vuelta.
We’ll try to learn from past experience to get there as best we can, but a lot will depend on how much energy we expend at the Giro.”
No rider has succeeded in winning the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same year since the late Marco Pantani achieved the double in 1998. In 2018, the football World Cup meant that there was an extra week between the end of the Giro d’Italia and the start of the Tour de France, which encouraged Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome to attempt the double. Froome won the Giro d’Italia and placed third at the Tour de France, while Dumoulin took second overall in each race.
Nibali has won the Giro d’Italia on two previous occasions, in 2013 and 2016, and placed third overall on his last appearance in 2017. Fabio Aru and Simon Yates are also expected to tackle the Corsa Rosa, though it remains what other Grand Tour contenders will be tempted to line out in the race, which starts in Bologna on May 11.
Team Sky have yet to announce their leader for the Giro Italia, though the team nonetheless dominated headlines on Wednesday following the announcement that Sky would cease its backing of the squad at the end of the 2019 season.
“I’ve heard the news but I haven’t read anything about it. The sponsor is leaving but the group is still there,” Nibali said.
“This certainly isn’t a decision that was made overnight, Sky is an important sponsor that has invested a lot. But it might be a marketing decision. This is a sponsor that is leaving after a long time, but they might take a few years out and come back into the sport later.”