Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) is set to ride both the time trial and road race at the London 2012 Olympics and lead the Italian team at the world championships in Valkenburg, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.
Nibali attended the final stage of the Giro d’Italia in Milan on Sunday, where he met with Italian national coach Paolo Bettini, an encounter Gazzetta has already labelled as the “Duomo Pact.”
Riders who participate in the time trial in London must also be part of the road race team. With only five berths on offer, Bettini has reportedly opted for Nibali ahead of Marco Pinotti (BMC), who incidentally won the Giro’s final time trial in Milan.
Such a scenario would be a repeat of the Italian selection for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where Nibali got the nod ahead of Pinotti, even though he was the reigning national time trial champion.
Gazzetta reports that Luca Paolini (Katusha), Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) would complete the Italian line-up for London, with Pinotti included in the reserves alongside Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD) and Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale).
For the Valkenburg road race, it seems as though Damiano Cunego – subject of some thinly-veiled criticism from Bettini during the Giro – will miss out at Nibali’s expense.
“Vincenzo showed at Lombardy last year and then at San Remo and Liège in 2012 that he knows how to shoulder responsibility and ride with a team behind him. He has a winning mentality and this is fundamental,” Bettini said. “I’m tired of people who are happy with placings.”
Nibali is currently preparing for the Tour de France, but Bettini is hopeful that the Sicilian will also line up at the Vuelta a España, but only as a means of preparing for the Worlds.
“I’ve advised him to ride the Vuelta like I did, without thinking about the GC,” Bettini said. “He needs to go to Spain, drop out of the overall picture straight away and then aim for two or three stages.”
Nibali currently has the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge pencilled in on his post-Tour schedule, races of particular importance to his bike supplier Cannondale. Heavily linked with a switch to Astana for next season, however, Nibali is apparently unhappy at his current employer’s approach to the calendar.
“I want to go to the Vuelta,” Nibali said, according to Gazzetta. “What I’ve never liked much at Liquigas is that the rider’s opinion on his programme doesn’t count for much.”
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