Vincenzo Nibali's hopes of making a quick return to racing following his expulsion from the Vuelta a España have been dashed by UCI rules, which prohibit riders eliminated from a stage race from competing in any other event until that race is over.
Nibali apologised for cheating in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport and said he hoped to race again as soon as possible, perhaps even this weekend at the Gran Prix Ouest France WorldTour race in Plouay.
However, UCI rule 12.1.023 is clear and puts a stop to Nibali's hopes of an early return.
The rule states: "Any rider eliminated from a stage race shall not be permitted to participate in any other competition for the duration of the race for which he was penalised, on pain of a 15 day suspension and a fine of CHF 200 to CHF 1'000."
When a rider leaves a stage race due to illness or injury they are occasionally allowed to race again but only after obtaining permission from the UCI and the race organiser involved.
This is covered by UCI rule 2.6.026, which says: "A rider dropping out of the race may not compete in any other cycling events for the duration of the stage race that he abandoned, on pain of a 15 day suspension and a fine of CHF 200 to 1,000. After consulting the event directors and the president of the commissaires panel, the UCI may, however, grant exceptions at the request of a rider and with the agreement of his sports director."
La Gazzetta dello Sport suggested that Nibali could still be part of the Italian team for the world road race championships in Richmond, with national coach Davide Cassani apparently keen to offer him support and a role in the Squadra Azzurra. He carried a support role in the 2014 world championships after winning the Tour de France.
Nibali had hoped to ride the GP Fourmies (September 6) and the Gran Prix de Québec and Montréal (September 11 and 13) with his Astana team. However, all three races overlap with the final part of the Vuelta and under UCI rules Nibali cannot compete until Monday September 14.
Astana has a light race programme in mid-September but Nibali could ride for the Italian national squad at the Coppa Agostoni (September 16), Coppa Bernocchi (September 17), the Memorial Marco Pantani (September 19) and the GP Industria & Commercio di Prato (September 20) before travelling to Richmond. He would then ride Il Lombardia and perhaps the Abu Dhabi Tour to ensure he does not take too long a break from racing.
According to Tuttobiciweb, Nibali will travel to Kazakhstan this weekend with his agent Alex Carera to take part in a non-competitive cycling event and meet with the senior management of the Astana team to talk about his future and the rebuilding of his core group of teammates and staff.