Vincenzo Nibali's participation in the World Championships road race is in doubt in the wake of his crash on the descent of El Cordal on Saturday's penultimate stage of the Vuelta a España. The Bahrain-Merida rider finished the stage to secure second place overall behind Chris Froome, but he suffered a heavy blow to his left rib cage in the incident.
"The pain in his ribs is still there. It's not insufferable, but Vincenzo will need to go and do an x-ray on Monday to remove all doubt," Nibali's coach Paolo Slongo told Tuttobici.
Although the course in Bergen is not believed to be selective enough for a rider of Nibali's characteristics, he is understood to be in the running for a place in Italian coach Davide Cassani's final, nine-man selection. In the wake of the Vuelta crash, however, Nibali may yet recuse himself from consideration.
"I can't say if Vincenzo would be able to respond to a call-up from Cassani for the Bergen Worlds, although I think it would be very difficult," Slongo said. "The blow was a hard one, and breathing is causing him pain. On Saturday, he did something truly great in defending second place with such calmness. Now he needs to undergo scans and we'll find out more. Let's say that for Bergen, I think it's going to be difficult. I think instead that Vincenzo should think about riding Il Lombardia as best he can. It's a race that he really likes."
Nibali was equally circumspect about his prospects of lining out at the Worlds when he spoke to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Sunday, suggesting that he had doubts about his participation even before his Vuelta crash.
"First of all, I have to understand how I'm feeling and see what I've done to my ribs, because I felt the blow," Nibali told La Gazzetta. "I'll decide based on that. Certainly, having spoken with the national coach, I realised that the course wasn't suited to me and that the national team already has the right pieces. What role could I play?"
The Italian team for Bergen looks likely to include Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step), who won four stages at the Vuelta, and Elia Viviani (Sky), who has enjoyed a fine run of recent form. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) underscored his claim to a berth by winning the Grand Prix de Montréal on Sunday.
Nibali's second place at the Vuelta marked his second podium finish in a Grand Tour this season, and his 10th in total since 2010. The Sicilian has yet to decide on his Grand Tour schedule for 2018, but suggested that he would return to the Vuelta in order to prepare for next year's World Championships, which take place on a demanding circuit in Innsbruck.
"It's too early [to outline objectives for 2018] but I certainly want to arrive prepared for the Worlds, but it's a course that really suits me," Nibali said. "To arrive there in top form, I'll have to come back here to the Vuelta. But this season isn't finished yet. I still have important objectives, like the Giro della Toscana, the Giro dell'Emilia, the Tre Valli Varesine and, above all, Il Lombardia on October 7."