Vincenzo Nibali back in action at Milano-Torino, having not raced since early February, and having lost 20 days of training after suffering a triple whammy of COVID-19, tonsillitis, and another infection.
The Italian will not ride Milan-San Remo on Saturday but will line-up for the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali stage race next week that starts on Tuesday and includes stages in Emilia Romagna and Tuscany.
The five-day stage race is also expected to see Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) make his 2022 season debut after his back problem, with Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech), Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) also expected to line up in Italy next week.
Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) and Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) also returned to racing at Milano-Torino. The former world champion was hit by a stomach bug during Tirreno-Adriatico, while the Tuscan rider is back after catching COVID-19 while training at altitude.
Bettiol has not raced since the Etoile de Bessèges in early February and has written off hopes of being competitive in the spring Classics but will ride Milan-San Remo, replacing Magnus Cort, who fractured his collarbone at Tirreno-Adriatico. Sagan is also due to ride Milan-San Remo as well as a full complement of the cobbled Classics.
For Nibali the Settimana Coppi e Bartali will be the first step towards the Giro d’Italia. He was expected to ride some of the spring Classics but will redesign his race calendar.
The Astana Qazaqstan rider is likely to continue racing in the next two weeks, before heading to altitude. He'll then take on the Giro di Sicilia as part of an Italian national team and ride the Tour of the Alps later in April. He made his 2022 debut at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in early February but now has to rebuild his form before the Corsa Rosa.
"I'm starting to feel better but I've got to take things step by step," Nibali explained to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"With COVID-19 and tonsillitis I’ve lost 20 days of training. It was pretty serious because I also came down with a streptococcal virus [sic] and ended up going to the ER unit of my local hospital. I needed to take antibiotics for eight days.”
"I'm happy to be back racing at Milano-Torino. I want to see how I feel in a race again. I’ve been out of action for quite a few weeks and so I’ve got to be careful."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.