Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is hoping to use a potential overall victory at the Tour de San Luis as a springboard for success at the Giro d’Italia in May. Nibali’s 2015 programme meant that he was unable to ride last year’s event but the Argentinian race has been a regular season opener for the 31-year-old.
Nibali won the Tour de San Luis in his second appearance at the race in 2010, and he would then go on to finish third at the Giro d’Italia and win his first Grand Tour at the Vuelta a Espana. With its warm weather and challenging route, Nibali believes that a strong result here will stand him in good stead later in the season.
“It is the fifth time that I am racing the Tour de San Luis. I don’t know how my shape is at the moment but it is my goal to try to win again,” Nibali told the press in San Luis on Saturday. The Italian was speaking at a pre-race press conference alongside, Nairo Quintana, Rafal Majka and defending champion Daniel Diaz; three riders that are likely to pose the biggest threat to his ambitions of winning.
“Last year I didn’t race because my programme didn’t allow for it but this year my objective is the Giro d’Italia so San Luis is very important for me. It is a good way to start the season and get some good preparation to be at 100 per cent for my objective. The weather here is also better than in Europe so that makes it better to get ready here.”
After San Luis, Nibali will travel out to the Middle East for the Tour of Oman before returning to Europe to race Tirreno-Adriatico. However, his programme between Tirreno and the Giro remains undecided. Nibali has targeted the Tour de France in recent years and has not ridden the Giro d’Italia since 2013, where he took victory over Rigoberto Uran. The competition is likely to be tougher at this year’s race and he will go up against riders such as his former Astana teammate Mikel Landa, who is now racing in the colours of Team Sky.
“This year the Giro d’Italia is going to be very interesting. There are several very important riders that will be racing there like Landa, [Alejandro] Valverde and Rafal Majka. They are all great rivals. Valverde gives a lot on the bike and that he is coming to the Giro d’Italia is very important. Landa used to be my teammate and I think that he is very strong and I respect him. Majka did a very good Vuelta a Espana last year and he will be strong too.”
As well as setting himself up for his early-season goals, Nibali has used the trip to South America as an opportunity to take a look at the road race and time trial course for the Olympic Games in Rio. Nibali travelled out to Brazil on the Tuesday before the race along with trade and national teammate Fabio Aru before joining the rest of the Astana riders in San Luis this Friday. For Nibali, it was a chance not to be missed and he liked what he saw.
“I was very important to go to Rio and look at the course for the road race, I also saw the time trial route. It was good, it is very hard and definitely one for the climbers,” he said. “I think that it will be very important to finish the Tour de France in good shape because the Olympic Games are so close to the end of the Tour.”