Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) has said that Alberto Contador's possible absence from the 2011 Tour de France will not influence his decision to ride the race. The Sicilian said that he would consult with his co-leader Ivan Basso before deciding on whether or not to ride the Tour.
"Contador's presence or absence won't affect my decision to go to the Tour or not," Nibali told Cyclingnews after the presentation of the Tour route in Paris. "At Liquigas, we're just concerned with managing our own calendar."
Nibali admitted that it would not be easy for the Liquigas team to balance their aspirations in 2011, but he hinted that he might lead the team at the Giro, with Basso aiming to win the Tour.
"I'll see after the presentation of the Giro on Saturday. It might be that I go to the Giro and then ride the Tour in support of Ivan, but it's too early to say for sure," he said.
"Next year, I do have the Giro in mind, and afterwards I'll decide whether to do the Tour or the Vuelta. I'll have to discuss it with Ivan and we'll seek to split up the objectives. It won't be easy."
If Nibali does ultimately ride the Tour, he will encounter a route not altogether dissimilar from that of his recent Vuelta a España success, at least in terms of time trialling kilometres. Not surprisingly, the Sicilian was enthusiastic about the parcours for the 2011 race.
"The Tour has a lot of important and historic climbs and very few time trial kilometres, including a team time trial, so you could say that is a Tour very suited to the climbers," Nibali said. "The stage in Italy stands out for me, obviously. The finish in Pinerolo could be very spectacular."
Whether he aims for the Giro, Tour or both in 2011, Nibali's overriding ambition for next season is already clear: "This year was a great year for me and I want to repeat those results next time around."
Basso taking it one day at a time
Nibali's Liquigas stable mate Ivan Basso was more circumspect about the importance of the Italian stage at the 2011 Tour de France, and he advised caution during the race's potentially tricky early passage through the Vendée and Brittany.
"There are a lot of stages to come before the day in Italy," Basso noted after the presentation of the route. "You can't win the Tour on the first day, but you could certainly lose it."
Once the race gets into the mountains, Basso admitted that the Col du Galibier will serve as the centrepiece of the Tour, just as the Tourmalet did in 2010.
"The stage with the summit finish at the Galibier is already in the minds of all the riders and all the teams and we'll have to pay attention to it. So many riders have suffered over those roads before," he noted.
However, the Italian returned to his mantra that every single day counts on the long road to Paris. "The stage to Plateau de Beille and the stage over the Agnello, they're the kind of stages that could make the difference," Basso said. "Just think of the length of the climbs, the steepness, the heat..."
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.