The Sicilian was absent from the race presentation in Milan on Thursday as he was in Wisconsin meeting his new Trek-Segafredo team. Nibali joins the squad in 2020 after three years at Bahrain-Merida. Although it is anticipated that he will ride the Giro as he builds towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, his race schedule is yet to be formalised.
Nibali placed second overall behind Richard Carapaz in the 2019 Giro, which didn’t feature a climb above 1,000 metres until the end of the second week of the race. Next May, the gruppo will tackle an early summit finish in Sicily after spending the first three stages in Hungary.
“Compared to the last one, this seems better designed to me, more balanced,” Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I like that the fact that there will be a summit finish in the first part, something that was missing in 2019.”
The Giro has already had early summit finishes at Etna in 2017 and 2018, but next year’s race will scale the volcano from a different side, climbing from Linguaglossa to a new finish line at Piano Provenzana. The ascent is 18.2km long with an average gradient of 6.8% and ramps of 11% in the finale.
“I might have done it in training but I’m not sure,” Nibali said. “Etna has a lot of different approaches and some of them are hidden, but on paper, it looks like an interesting stage.”
Although Nibali expressed displeasure at the final day time trial in Milan – "as a rider, a different stage would be better on the last day" – he had no qualms about Mauro Vegni’s decision to include a total of three individual time trials in the race, including the crucial 34km test to Valdobbiadene on stage 14. "In 2019, there were three time trials too," Nibali said.
The bulk of the 2020 Giro’s mountain stages are packed into a demanding final week, but Nibali identified three earlier days as having the potential to weigh heavily in the GC battle – the rugged trek through Calabria to Camigliatello Silano on stage 7, the homage to the Nove Colli Gran Fondo on stage 12 in Cesenatico and the summit finish at Piancavallo the day after the Valdobbiadene time trial. "These are just examples," Nibali said. "Bad weather, wind and tactics can change days that seem straightforward beforehand"
It remains to be seen if weather conditions will alter the course in the final week, which brings the race above 2,000m to tackle the mighty Stelvio on stage 18 and then the Colle d’Agnello and the Col d’Izoard on the penultimate day. Nibali’s second Giro win in 2016 was forged atop the Agnello, where he began his long-range offensive en route to stage victory at Risoul, while maglia rosa Steven Kruijswijk endured a costly crash on the descent. He believes the Agnello stage – which finishes at Sestriere – might again be decisive in 2020.
"Of course, the GC riders could mark each heavily and not because of that, not a lot might happen," Nibali said. "But on paper, there’s also the terrain for an attack like Froome’s in 2018 when he turned the Giro upside down by attacking on the Finestre with 80km to go. Anything can happen."
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