Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has cast doubt on his participation in next Sunday’s Milan-San Remo, citing his current lack of form and the absence of the climb of Le Manie from the route. The Sicilian has been some way short of his best at Tirreno-Adriatico and he conceded over two minutes on Sunday’s snowbound summit finish at Terminillo.
"At this point, considering that there isn't even the climb of Le Manie, I'm asking myself what I'm going to San Remo to do," Nibali said, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.
Nibali finished third at Milan-San Remo in 2012 and attacked alone on the Cipressa twelve months ago, but bemoaned the lack of aggression from other non-sprinters after the finish.
Le Manie was first added to Milan-San Remo in 2009 but was removed from the parcours last year as organisers RCS Sport planned to introduce a new climb, the Pompeiana, to make the finale more selective. A landslide meant that the Pompeiana was ultimately not used, however, and neither Le Manie nor the Pompeiana figure on this year's route.
Nibali endured a difficult weekend at Tirreno-Adriatico and slipped to 20th overall on Sunday when he was unable to keep pace with Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and the main general classification contenders on the climb to Terminillo. Quintana claimed the stage and placed a down payment on final overall victory, while Nibali reached the summit 2:16 down.
"I tried to hang tough but there's no point beating about the bush – I couldn't do any more than that," Nibali said. “I don't have the same form as riders who prepared for this race with training camps at altitude. I tried to stay at the front for as long as possible. What consoles me is that I wasn't spent at the finish."
Nibali's campaign is built around the defence of his Tour de France title - "Everything is going normally towards my big objective, the Tour," he said - though he runs the risk of missing out La Grande Boucle altogether if his Astana team is stripped of its WorldTour status. The UCI has requested the withdrawal of Astana's licence following an audit of its anti-doping policies carried out by researchers from the University of Lausanne. The UCI Licence Commission has yet to render its decision.
In the immediate future, Nibali acknowledged that it would be a struggle for him to make an impact at Milan-San Remo on Sunday, even if he insisted that his condition was not as big an obstacle as the parcours.
"In a one-day race it's different, you start with full energy whereas here [at Tirreno] you use up a lot," he said. "Even being two or three kilos over your ideal weight isn't a problem. The point is another: the course. Without Le Manie, what am I going to do at Milan-San Remo?"