Vincenzo Nibali’s strong showing at Roma Maxima on Sunday augurs well for his defence of Tirreno-Adriatico this week, but the Astana rider has said that he is not in quite the same form as he was this time last year.
With the Giro d’Italia the principal aim of his season, Nibali explained that he has had a slightly gentler build-up than he did in 2012, when his decision to forgo the Giro in favour of the Tour de France meant that he could also afford to peak for the classics.
“Maybe I’m a little bit behind,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “But I was aiming for the Tour then and this time I’m preparing for the Giro, so being on top form now would be a problem.”
Even so, Nibali will line up in San Vincenzo on Wednesday with ambitions of final overall victory at Tirreno-Adriatico. The route is strikingly similar to that of twelve months ago, and again includes the set-piece summit finish at Prati di Tivo, where Nibali soloed to victory last year.
“I’m racing above all to honour the race: last year, I was a protagonist and I won it,” Nibali said. “I’m also racing to check out the competition ahead of the Giro. And I always race to win.”
Nibali’s principal rival at the Giro is expected be Bradley Wiggins (Sky) but the Briton is not taking part in Tirreno-Adriatico. Nibali and Wiggins both lined up at the Tour of Oman in February, but while Nibali finished 7th overall, Wiggins was rarely involved at the head of the field.
“In Oman, he snubbed the race and hid,” Nibali said. “When he did show himself, it was to help Froome. I can’t do what he did: my instinct always pushes me to invent something. I’m not capable of staying still.”
At Tirreno-Adriatico, Nibali will instead measure himself against the Tour of Oman winner Chris Froome – “he seems very competitive, but luckily for me, he’s concentrated on the Tour,” Nibali said – and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff).
“He never rides just to be a spectator,” Nibali said of Contador. “Wherever he goes, he leaves his mark. He wants to be a protagonist even if he’s racing around the house, never mind at Tirreno-Adriatico.”