The start list for the 2017 Giro d'Italia contains no shortage of realistic contenders for the maglia rosa, but in the eyes of pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) stands out above the rest.
"He's on home turf. I think he's the greatest rival I have in this Giro," said the Colombian of the rider who won the Giro in 2013, the year before he did so himself.
Quintana was speaking at a press conference in his Bogota on Friday, organised before he heads to Europe ahead of the first Grand Tour of the season in Sardinia. And it's the first Grand Tour in an audacious double as the Movistar rider has set himself the goal of winning the Giro-Tour de France double – a feat not achieved since Marco Pantani did it back in 1998.
There have been question marks over how he races the Giro and whether he can afford to hold anything back for July. Indeed, the Tour still remains the 27-year-old's highest priority, and the double decision was based on his past performances in the Vuelta a España and the notion that he fares better in the second Grand Tour he rides.
"The idea is to go for the Giro title - for both titles. I don't know if it's going to come off or not, but we'll try," said Quintana, though he did suggest the maglia rosa wasn't the be-all and end-all.
"More than going there desperate to win the Giro, I'm going with the excitement of being able to participate in the 100th edition as a past winner of the race," he said.
Quintana acknowledged that he has had to tailor his training to the demands of targeting both races, not least improving his time trialling for the two decisive tests that await in Italy.
"I'm continuing to hone my time trialling and it's still getting better as far as it's possible," he said, adding: "also the mountains, but with a lot of care – I have to arrive in good shape at both the two races.
"We now have a bit of experience and we have our reference points in terms of three-week races."
Quintana will ride the Vuelta a Asturias in northern Spain as his final preparation for the Giro, which begins on May 5. The three-week stage race runs from April 29-May 3.
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