Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) makes his first competitive appearance since winning the Tour de France when he lines up at the Coppa Bernocchi in Legnano on Tuesday. The race also sees Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) return to action following the news that he would not be sanctioned for his adverse analytical finding for clenbuterol at the Giro d’Italia.
Ulissi’s summer on the sidelines meant that he missed out on the chance to line up as part of the Italian team at the world championships in Ponferrada on September 28. For Nibali, meanwhile, the Coppa Bernocchi is the first of five build-up races for the Worlds.
Nibali will line up at all three of the Trittico Lombardo events in the next three days – the Coppa Agostoni and Tre Valli Varesine follow on Wednesday and Thursday – and he will then ride for an Italian national selection at the Memorial Pantani and GP Prato at the weekend.
The Astana bus was understandably the centre of attention at the start in Legnano. Not only was it Nibali’s first outing since his Tour victory, it was only his fourth appearance on home roads all season, after the GP Camaiore and Milan-San Remo in March, and his victory in the national championships in June.
Although Nibali’s current condition remains something of an unknown, he is pencilled in to lead the Italian team in Ponferrada. New coach Davide Cassani named the 16-man pre-selection last Friday and will announce his reduced travelling party at the conclusion of the Trittico Lombardo.
For his part, Ulissi told Livorno-based newspaper Il Tirreno that he already has his sights set on the 2015 world championships in Richmond. “It’s inevitable [that I’m already thinking of 2015],” he said. “I’ll aim for the big classics and the Richmond Worlds, which I’ve been told seems perfect for my characteristics. It’s a bit of a harder course than this year’s one.”
Ulissi was provisionally suspended by his Lampre team for three months while his case was being examined. He underwent further testing in Lausanne in July but was only given the go ahead by his team to return to action at the weekend. He will ride the Tritto Lombardo, Giro dell’Emilia, GP Beghelli, Tour of Lombardy, Coppa Sabatini and Tour of Hainan before the end of the 2014 season.
“I’m just interested in racing, my lawyers occupy themselves with the other stuff,” Ulissi told Tuttobici on Tuesday morning. “I trained with [Luca] Paolini, Nibali and [Ivan] Santaromita, they welcomed me with open arms. They understood the situation straightaway and they never left me alone.”