Ulissi, Nibali, Nizzolo and Viviani expected in Italian Worlds team

With 26 days to go to the Elite men’s road race at the World Championships in Richmond, national coaches are under pressure to select their squads that will fight for the rainbow jersey on Sunday September 27.

While Germany has named a long list of riders that includes both Andre Greipel and John Degenkolb, Italian national coach Davide Cassani is expected to select a more aggressive strategy build around Diego Ulissi of Lampre-Merida. The 259km race covers 16 laps of a rolling circuit around central Richmond, with two cobbled section and several short climbs per lap. The finish is on a 700m false flat after a final 300m climb.

Ulissi is not riding the Vuelta a Espana and has focused on peaking for the World Championships since winning a stage at the Giro d'Italia. It was his first success since serving a nine-month ban for a positive test for Salbutamol. He was given a reduced ban after tests showed his excess use of the asthma drug had not improved his performance.  

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Cassani is likely to include a sprinter as a second strategic option, with Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory) and/or Elia Viviani (Team Sky) expected to take on Degenkolb, Greipel and Norway’s Alexander Kristoff if the aggressive plans of the Italians fail to stop the road race ending in a sprint.

La Gazzetta dello Sport spoke briefly to Cassani and it seems almost certain that the Italian national squad will help Vincenzo Nibali bounce back from his disqualification from the Vuelta a Espana and tension with his Astana team by giving him a place amongst the nine Azzurri selected for Richmond. Nibali will not be a protected team leader but play a key supporting role on the road. It seems Nibali will ride the Coppa Agostoni (September 16) and the Coppa Bernocchi (September 17) races with Astana before riding the Memorial Marco Pantani (September 19) and the GP Industria & Commercio di Prato (September 20). Because he was disqualified from the Vuelta, Nibali cannot race until the Spanish Grand Tour ends on Sunday September 13.

It seems there is no place for Vuelta a Espana stage winner Kristian Sbaragli, who said he is not under consideration, while Filippo Pozzato also seems out of contention for a place due to a lack of racing sparked by his dispute with Lampre-Merida.

Cassani is expected to visit the Vuelta a Espana before fomalising his team selection and naming the 11 riders (nine starters and two reserves) for Richmond.

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