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Bahrain-Merida mulls over possible return for Nibali to the Vuelta a Espana in 2017

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The 2010 Vuelta a España champion Vincenzo Nibali

The 2010 Vuelta a España champion Vincenzo Nibali (Image credit: Tim de Waele/
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Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) (Image credit: Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team)
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2017 Giro d'Italia presentation - Vincenzo Nibali - Urbano Cairo- Carlo Tamburi

2017 Giro d'Italia presentation - Vincenzo Nibali - Urbano Cairo- Carlo Tamburi (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali has familiar goals with Bahrain Merida next year

Vincenzo Nibali has familiar goals with Bahrain Merida next year (Image credit: Courtesy of Polartec-Kometa)

Bahrain-Merida representative Joaquim Rodriguez has said a return to the Vuelta a España may well be on the cards for Vincenzo Nibali in 2017.

Nibali won the Vuelta in 2010, his first Grand Tour victory, and came second overall in 2013 behind Chris Horner, but in 2015 he was expelled from the race for taking a tow from a team car.

Two years further on, Bahrain-Merida's Joaquim Rodriguez, a Vuelta podium finisher and stage winner who retired at the end of last season, says that another ride for Nibali in the Vuelta a España "is not something we'd rule out at all".

Speaking to a small group of reporters at the Vuelta presentation, Rodriguez argued: "We'll have to see how he comes through the Giro d'Italia, which is the number one objective for the team - it's the Giro's centenary year, the route suits him, and of course there's a stage finish in his home town, Messina.

"But if you ask me, I think he could look at a Giro-Vuelta double. The time trial route in Logroño is very good for him - it's quite long and technical. There are mountain stages which suit him and, whilst it's become clear that riders trying for the Giro and Tour tend to fall short, for Vincenzo to go for two Grand Tours in the same year would be something very wonderful."

The last rider to succeed in taking the Giro and Vuelta in the same year was Alberto Contador in 2008. But Rodriguez played down speculation that Nibali, who tried to do the same double in 2013, could be spurred to return to the Vuelta by the events of 2015 or the inclusion of the Angliru. The Angliru was where, after winning the Giro and leading for much of the 2013 Vuelta, Nibali definitively lost the race to Chris Horner, but Rodriguez does not feel there is any question of 'unfinished business' for the Shark of Messina.

"Vincenzo is a very tough guy mentally and I don't think he looks back so much at the past. He's going to be looking at the Vuelta route and at what chances he has of winning, and that’s all."

As for the Vuelta's stage three that ends in his home town of Andorra la Vella, Rodriguez agreed it was the most decisive of the first week. "It's a stage that ends with a descent but which is harder than it looks. Coming so early it could well catch people out and although it's not going to decide who wins the Vuelta, it'll start the process of deciding who loses it.

"It's a bit strange that that stage does't have a summit finish, but it's the first real contact with the high mountains of the race with real climbs. The Rabassa [first category] is very hard, and the Cornella [second category, seven kilometres from the finish] is only four kilometres long but is extremely difficult. Fortunately both descents are good, safe ones, but more than one GC rider could find themselves in trouble on the climbs themselves."

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.