Vincenzo Nibali seemed genuinely surprised and a little put out to discover that Chris Froome will target the Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double in 2018, with the Briton's decision and eight-second video message stealing the limelight and suddenly overshadowing the Sicilian's plans for next season. He made a point of reminding Froome of the difficulties of the Giro and warned that Italian riders will always have home advantage.
Nibali has already named Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the road World Championships as goals for 2018, and he plans to ride the Vuelta a Espana to prepare for the tough route in Innsbruck. He and his Bahrain-Merida team will make a final decision regarding the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France next week during their first training camp in Croatia.
Nibali suggested that he could even ride both races, but that would not fit in with his shot at winning the rainbow jersey. It is widely expected that Nibali will target the Tour de France and so be obliged to miss his home Grand Tour.
"I'll decide in the next week at the team camp and we'll officialise my race programme after also considering things with my team. We'll decide together," Nibali said.
"It's a beautiful and very interesting route, even if it's best suited to Chris. The Giro is very particular, though, it's never a logical race. There are eight mountain finishes but their difficulty increases gradually. The road to Etna is easier than the one we raced on this year and Montevergine is fast and so not very selective. The real climbs come in the final week with the Zoncolan, the Colle delle Finestre dirt road, Jafferau and Cervinia. The time trial is not long and seems about right for a 21-day race; it was too long this year."
A warning about the weather
Nibali denied that his decision on the Giro d'Italia will be influenced by Froome's presence. He suggested that Froome's decision will benefit cycling, while pointing out he has already won all three Grand Tours in his career.
"His presence at the Giro d'Italia is good for the sport, good for the Giro and also for Team Sky. Having won the Tour and the Vuelta, now he only needs to win the Giro. My decision won't depend on his presence at the Giro, absolutely not. I'll decide independently," Nibali said.
Surprisingly, Froome has not raced in Italy since the World Championships in Florence in 2013. Early that season, Nibali defeated him in the cold and rain to win Tirreno-Adriatico and he was quick to remind Froome of the often testing weather of the Giro. Temperatures can touch 30 degrees celsius in the south, but snow is occasionally a factor in the high mountains.
"When you've won the Tour de France four times and won a Vuelta, you know you are suited to every Grand Tour. But the Giro has several factors that you can't control and that can put you in trouble at any time," Nibali said.
"Chris has said he likes the heat and doesn't love the cold, so it'll be interesting to see how he handles the often changeable weather at the Giro d'Italia. But Team Sky has a very strong team and Froome is very strong. With that mix they are super strong."
Nibali knows that Froome lived and raced frequently in Italy while with Barloworld in 2008 and 2009, but warned him about Italian riders having home advantage at the Giro d'Italia. "When we race at home, we don't give 100 percent; we give 150 percent!"
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