Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) began the Tour of the Alps looking for signs he was on form and ready for the rapidly approaching Giro d'Italia. His sudden attack on the final climb during stage 1 came to little result, but for someone who often prefers to follow his instincts rather than his power metre, it was an important morale boost after weeks of hard training.
The attack with Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Sky) was eventually closed down by the Astana team, and Nibali finished 17th in the 21-rider sprint. But the Sicilian was happy as he rode back to the Bahrain-Merida team bus in Kufstein.
"I felt good and there was a chance to do something, so I went for it," Nibali explained to Cyclingnews and La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"My attack was easy to see because my chain jumped when I was out of the saddle and everyone saw me go. But I decided to go for it and see what happened. Sivakov was struggling a bit because he'd made a big effort, but Majka was up for it and so was Geoghegan Hart," he said.
"Astana quickly got organised behind and so they closed us down. That's OK, despite being former teammates and friends, we're still rivals in the race. They've got Pello Bilbao who's on good form, and so they didn't want to lose any time."
Nibali has not raced since finishing eighth at Milan-San Remo a month ago. He recently spent two weeks training at altitude on Mount Teide to prepare for the Giro d'Italia and was keen to feel the benefits of the hard work.
"I've got the taste of blood in my mouth because it was a big effort in my first race back after the camp. But I'm happy, it's good to go deep at race speed," Nibali said.
"This is a good race to test your form. I'll also do Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which is a long day out. Here the stages are short, but that means the racing will be intense and explosive. That'll help me for the Giro d'Italia."
Nibali revealed he has been forced to adjust his position in the saddle after his crash at last year's Tour de France.
He was brought down by a spectator's camera strap on the climb to L'Alpe d'Huez and underwent surgery to fill and stabilise the fractured T10 vertebrae so he could make a rapid recovery and return to racing in time for the Vuelta a Espana and UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck.
"I suffered at the start of the season due to making a late start to racing and my crash," Nibali explained.
"My posture and back has changed after the crash, but things are going well. I'm optimistic, the team and I know we've worked well. It's good to feel on track for the Giro d'Italia."
Nibali's only sadness was for former friend and teammate Michele Scarponi, who won the opening stage of the 2017 Tour of the Alps in nearby Innsbruck but was tragically killed on his home roads in central Italy the day after returning home from the race.
"I don't want to think too much about Michele and remember him publicly because I've never wanted to be in that situation," Nibali explained.
"I'd love for Michele to be here racing with us, to be here laughing and joking with us as he always did."
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