Vincenzo Nibali fell short in his bid to regain top form in time for the World Championships following the fractured vertebra he sustained at the Tour de France, but the Italian will race on three more occasions before calling time on his 2018 season.
On Saturday, Nibali will be in action at the Giro dell’Emilia, which finishes on the climb to the Santuario di San Luca in Bologna, site of the opening time trial of the 2019 Giro d’Italia. The Bahrain-Merida rider will then ride the Tre Valli Varesine next Tuesday, before turning his attention to his final outing of the campaign at Il Lombardia on October 13.
Nibali is chasing a third Il Lombardia victory after winning the race in 2015 and again last season, while he is also seeking to become the first rider to win both Milan-San Remo and Il Lombardia in the same season since Eddy Merckx achieved the feat in 1972. On Wednesday, Nibali trained on the course of this year's Il Lombardia, posing for a photograph atop the steep Colma di Sormano climb with Fabio Aru, Dario Cataldo, Enrico Gasparotto and Domenico Pozzovivo.
Nibali placed 49th in Sunday’s World Championship road race after losing contact on the final lap, though he reported no ill effects from his back injury after the race. He had undergone percutaneous bilateral vertebroplasty surgery in early August. Nibali’s Tour crash occurred when a spectator leant into the road on stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez.
Giro d'Italia or Tour de France in 2019?
It remains to be seen whether Nibali will return to the Tour de France next year, as La Gazzetta dello Sport has this week reported that he will make the Giro d’Italia the centrepiece of his 2019 season.
Bahrain-Merida manager Brent Copeland has insisted, however, that no decision has been taken on Nibali’s 2019 programme at this early juncture. “We still haven't decided our goals for 2019,” Copeland told Cyclingnews on Thursday.
The route of the 2019 Tour de France will be presented in Paris on October 25, while no date has yet been fixed for the presentation of the 2019 Giro d'Italia route. If Nibali were to triumph at the 2019 Giro d'Italia, he would become the oldest winner in race history, beating Fiorenzo Magni’s record of 34 years, 6 months and 29 days from 1955.
Nibali turns 34 next month and 2019 will be the final season of his existing three-year contract at Bahrain-Merida, but La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that he is planning to continue in the professional peloton until the end of 2021 at the very least.
After crashing out of the Rio 2016 Olympics while in line to win the gold medal, Nibali is understood to be especially keen to target the road race at the Tokyo 2020 Games, which will take place on a demanding circuit.
Meanwhile, following the disappointment of being unable to perform at his best in Innsbruck last week, Nibali’s appetite will also have been whetted by the news that the 2020 Worlds have been assigned to Switzerland. The mountainous parcours is slated to include an ascent of the 11km Col de Champex before seven laps of a finishing circuit that would feature the Col de la Petite Forclaz (3.8 km at 10.5%).
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