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Nibali comes down from altitude for Tour of the Alps test

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Vincenzo Nibali rides into the Piazza del Campo in Siena

Vincenzo Nibali rides into the Piazza del Campo in Siena
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde talk on the start line

Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde talk on the start line
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali enjoying himself during the early stages of the race.

Vincenzo Nibali enjoying himself during the early stages of the race.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida)

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida)
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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Vincenzo Nibali framed on a reporter's phone

Vincenzo Nibali framed on a reporter's phone
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) has come down from altitude training and will continue his Giro d'Italia preparation at the Tour of the Alps next week.

The 34-year-old Italian, who most recently raced to eighth place at Milan-San Remo, has been training on the Teide volcano in Spain with trainer Paolo Slongo before jumping into the hilly five-day race that starts April 22 in Kufstein and concludes April 26 in Bolzano.

"The work has been intense, and I will need to find race rhythm, but there's still time before the Giro begins Nibali said in a statement released by the race. "I feel confident." 

Nibali has won the race twice under its previous name of Giro del Trentino, but he missed the race last year as he was skipping the Giro and aiming for the Tour de France. With he Giro and the Tour on his menu this year, the Italian is returning to the race.

"I feel connected to this race," Nibali said. "I won my first Giro del Trentino in 2008, repeating the success in 2013, the season of my first Giro d'Italia success. I still remember the emotions of the win in Folgaria, winning ahead of Franco Pellizotti, who will be in my team car as sports director in this year's Tour of the Alps."

The 2019 Tour of the Alps will offer a typically rigorous warm-up ahead of the Giro, with almost 14,000 metres of total climbing to feature across five stages. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) beat Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) to win the 2018 edition of the race.

Nibali's absence last year allowed him to make an ultimately unsuccessful run at all three Ardennes Classics. This year he'll miss Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne but will fly from Tour of the Alps directly to Belgium for Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 28.  

"These routes might be perfect also to set up the race on the Ardennes," he said. 

The Tour of the Alps organisation has a preference for reduced stage distances and avoiding extreme altitudes. The 144km opening stage takes place around Kufstein, which hosted the start of the elite men’s road race at the 2018 UCI Road World Championships.

The 178.8km second stage is perhaps the most demanding of the race and has been given a five-star difficulty rating by the race organisers. At just 106.3km, stage 3 from Salurn to Baselgo di Pinè is the shortest of the race but may also prove to be the most explosive. 

Stage 4 sets out from Baselga di Pinè and takes in the climbs of Forcella di Brez and the Passo Predaia, which are sure to leave only the strongest climbers in the front group. The Tour of the Alps concludes with a 148km stage from Caldaro to Bolzano that takes in the climbs of Colalbo and San Genesio

"I really like the Tour of the Alps formula, made of short and demanding stages, and that’s the way also Grand Tours seem to be going," Nibali said. "Tour of the Alps stages are usually contested from the start, proving spectacular for the audience and challenging for the riders."

This year Nibali will race against Grand Tour rival Chris Froome (Team Sky). Froome's teammate Egan Bernal was initially scheduled to go the Alps ahead leading the team at the Giro, but the young Colombian is not on the start list. Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) will compete in Tour of the Alps, along with the five WorldTour teams and a host of strong Professional Continental and Continental teams.

"I think Chris Froome will be competitive," Nibali said. "The Tour de France is still quite a long way, but we are talking about a champion. This will be my first race since Milan-San Remo and the altitude training: I am looking forward to test my feelings before the Giro."