Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) will prepare for the 2014 Tour de France by racing regularly on French roads and competing more often against his principle rivals for the yellow jersey in the opening half of the season.
“In 2014 I’ll have a very specific programme that I’ve never done before,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “It’s centred on the Tour de France, with a lot of new races for me, with one objective – to race as many days as possible on French roads, to get to know my rivals better and to understand France more.”
Nibali will kick off the new campaign at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina in January, before tackling the Tour of Oman in February, where he is likely to encounter reigning Tour champion Chris Froome (Sky) for the first time in 2014.
“Then I’ll do Paris-Nice, Milan-San Remo, Critérium International, the Ardennes classics, the Tour de Romandie and then the Dauphiné in June, the final tune-up before the Tour,” Nibali said.
For now, Milan-San Remo (March 23) is the only Italian race pencilled in on Nibali’s schedule, and the addition of the Pompeiana in the finale means that it joins the Ardennes classics among the Sicilian’s primary early-season objectives.
“San Remo has changed a lot with the Pompeiana,” Nibali said. “It will eliminate fast riders. A very different race than usual will emerge and it will favour guys like me. The tactics will change too.”
Nibali is likely to face Froome on a number of occasions before the Tour de France, including at Critérium International and the Critérium du Dauphiné, but he said that crossing swords with the Sky man ahead of July was not a priority in itself. Nibali finished 3rd behind Froome and Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins on his last Tour de France appearance in 2012.
“I’m not going there for him, I’m going there for myself,” Nibali said. “I’m ready for the Tour. I’m like that, a bit naïve. I know what I’ve done in the past. I’ll go to the Tour tranquillo, thinking that I can win it. I don’t want to have the regrets about not having tried it.
“I do have one regret, alright, from 2012, when I didn’t ride the Giro. I was sorry because I was going very well.”
Nibali was speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport after being named by the newspaper’s readers as the best Italian sportsman of 2013 following his victories at the Giro d’Italia, Tirreno-Adriatico and Giro del Trentino, his second place finish at the Vuelta a España and his battling performance at the world championships road race in Florence. The Astana man believes that his popularity is not due solely to his victories, but also to his aggressive style of racing.
“My only thought during a race is not to be afraid to make decisive moves. If you think too much, if you start playing for time, or if you start saying to yourself ‘what if I can’t do it?’ then it’s finished. Not being afraid and following your instincts: that’s Nibali. That’s the reason why people like me. That’s how I’ve made my victories more beautiful, more epic.”