Vincenzo Nibali: There's still time to think about my race programme

The Shark of Messina on his Grand Tour goals, his character and life at Astana

Vincenzo Nibali has so far refused to reveal his major goals of the 2016 season. Astana team manager Alexander Vinokourov has told Cyclingnews that Nibali will target the Giro d'Italia, while Fabio Aru is team leader for the Tour de France. However Nibali is also keen to ride the Tour and then go on to ride the Olympic road race in Rio. He has so far refused to accept the idea that he cannot decide his own Grand Tour goals, even if 2016 is the final year of his current contract with the Astana team.

Nibali now admits he had a difficult 2015. He was the defending Tour de France winner after dominating the race in 2014, yet he struggled to be competitive in the build-up to July and then lost time in the echelons on stage 2. He lost any chance of overall victory in the Pyrenees but bounced back to win a stage in the Alps and was fourth overall behind Chris Froome (Team Sky). He was disqualified from the Vuelta a Espana on stage 2 for holding onto his team car but bounced back with a show of anger and won Il Lombardia with a daring solo attack in the hills.

Nibali turned 31 on November 14 but insists he remains determined and focused for the new season, after spending the winter at home with his family and training for 2016.

Cyclingnews: You recently said you prefer to go to races feeling happy than feeling angry, perhaps referring to pressure in the Astana team during 2015. Is that true?

Vincenzo Nibali: I've always felt that way. It was like that when I was with Liquigas, which was more like a big family. I've had some great moments at Astana and then other moments when things were more difficult. But when you leave home and you're happy and focused on doing well, I believe that things work out better, that good results will always come along.

CN: Is it a question of character?

VN: Perhaps. I've got a strange character in some ways, which doesn't allow people to really understand me. I can seem closed sometimes, while I think I'm actually pretty friendly, I like to be happy in life and be happy when I'm racing. I'm perhaps somewhat introverted because I don't express my emotions, I keep them inside me. But I always remember the good moments, the special moments of my career. Perhaps I don't seem especially friendly and I can be a little jealous sometimes but I never forget my real friendships.

CN: Are you more relaxed and focused now?

VN: Of course. Last year the problems for the team concerning our licence disrupted everything and everybody, especially me, because I'd won the Tour de France and had been very busy during the winter. I wasn't fully focused on the bike and on my training during the winter and so things became worse at the start of 2015. That meant I was under pressure during the spring and the stress built up slowly and came out at the Tour de France.

Fortunately this year I'm more relaxed after having a good break. 2015 was a difficult season but at the end of day I got some good results that pleased me personally. I finished the season on a high by winning Il Lombardia.

I planned my winter better and feel I've recovered from the 2015 season. I had to give up a few things – I didn't go somewhere warm for a holiday but that wasn't a problem, I spent a lot of time with my wife and baby daughter. That was special. Since getting back on the bike I've been able to do some good training, I've kept my weight down and I feel I'm ready for the new season.

More Astana news:

Grand Tour goals in 2016

CN: You've been asked a lot about which Grand Tour you will ride in 2016. Vinokourov has made it clear that you will target the Giro d'Italia and Aru will be team leader for the Tour de France. Is that right?

VN: It seems like there are a lot of doubts about my programme but I don't think so. There's still time to think about my race programme and especially the races around the Grand Tours. I'm not excluding either the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France at this point.

The Giro d'Italia could be my first goal but I don't think having both me and Aru at the Tour de France isn't a problem either. This year Movistar had both Quintana and Valverde and worked well together. They could have perhaps done even better and beaten Froome thanks to their combined strength. Me and Fabio get on pretty well, we've proved it several times and so I think we can be a good duo for the Tour de France. We shouldn't forget that the Tour is a massive goal but very difficult to get right and win.

CN: What do you think about the 2016 Giro d'Italia route?

VN: I attended the presentation of the Giro d'Italia. It's a good route and will be a great race. It's not a super hard course compared to some of the really hard routes of the past. Looking at the maps and the profiles, it seems very well designed and finely balanced. There are several key stages which should make it a good race, so that inspires me a lot.

CN: What about the Tour de France?

VN: I watched the route presentation on television. It's a very technical course, with some important time trial stages. It's arguably not as hard as this year's race but it'll be a tough race as always because everyone is always at their very best at the Tour de France. Of course it's always the riders who make the race.

After the Tour, there's also the Olympic road race to think about. It's been described as a hard and hilly race, so it'll be a difficult race to prepare and peak for. It's a very long race, the national teams are very small and so it'll be a bit of a lottery too. I'm also not fast in a sprint, so to win I know I've got to have a great day and produce a special ride. I'll get a chance to see the route in January before travelling on to the Tour de San Luis.

CN: There have been some rumours about your future and which team you will ride for in 2017. Will that be a distraction for you during 2016?

VN: No. If anything, it could give me even more motivation and an extra bit of fighting spirit.

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