Fresh from a solid third place at the Vuelta a Burgos, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) is steadily working towards his major objective of the second half of the season, the Vuelta a España.
"I want to ride as strongly there as I did at the Giro, but I won't say any more than that out of superstition," Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I'll ride as leader, with the same attitude as ever but with greater responsibility. I'd like to leave my mark in Spain."
Nibali has clearly grown in confidence this season and he credits his podium finish at the Giro d'Italia for this transformation. "It gave me a lot of belief," he said. "It was my revenge on those people who didn't believe in me in the past. And there were a lot of them."
Before returning to the Iberian peninsula, Nibali will ride three races on Italian roads, the Coppa Agostoni, Tre Valli Varesine and the Trofeo Melinda. As well as building condition for the Vuelta, he hopes to avail of the opportunity to force his way into Paolo Bettini's plans for the Italian team at the World Championships.
"I haven't had the chance to speak with Bettini yet, but it will happen during the next races. He knows me well. He'll explain the route to me and tell me what he has in mind. Then it'll be down to me to ride well," Nibali said.
"[Late Italian manager Franco] Ballerini had been in Melbourne and spoke of a route that wasn't as easy as it seemed, and I think Bettini has the same idea."
Nibali believes that his display at the Giro in support of Ivan Basso demonstrates his capacity to ride for a leader, as he would be required to do in Melbourne. He also noted that Basso might not have enjoyed such support had Franco Pellizotti ridden the Giro as planned. Pellizotti showed irregularities in his biological passport before the race and was pulled from the Liquigas line-up and replaced by Nibali.
"Between Basso and me there's a different rapport than between Basso and Pellizotti. They're the same age, whereas I'm younger," said Nibali. "I often followed Basso's instructions, while Pellizotti would have started as a leader. It would have been a different Giro."
In any case, Nibali has few regrets about forgoing the Tour, where he was 7th in 2009, in favour of the Giro. However, he did note his contemporary Andy Schleck's improvement in the race this year, commenting "I would have liked to have compared myself against him, but we'll see in 2011 instead."
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