Vincenzo Nibali rode aggressively at the Memorial Pantani race on Saturday but has admitted he is still not at his very best after fracturing a vertebrae at the Tour de France and has suggest that Italy should back Gianni Moscon as team leader for next Sunday’s UCI Road World Championships road race.
Nibali rode the Vuelta a Espana to try find a peak of form after undergoing surgery on the vertebrae he fractured at the Tour de France. However he was unable to compete for the overall classification and was not able to fight for a stage win. That left him discouraged about his chances for the testing 258.5km world championships race that includes the steep final Höll climb and his role as leader of the Italian team.
Saturday’s Memorial Pantani was Nibali’s first race since the Vuelta a Espana and the last before the Italian team gather in Trentino on Monday for a final training camp. The Sicilian was part of the 18-rider group that decided the race; he also made a strong attack in the final kilometres but was swept up by the Androni Giocattoli team that set up Davide Ballerini for a sprint victory.
Nibali’s performance lifted his moral but did not boost his hopes for next Sunday’s road race.
Nibali and the Bahrain-Merida team believe they have done everything possible to recover after Nibali was taken out by a spectator’s camera strap on the climb to L’Alpe d’Huez during the Tour de France. He underwent percutaneous vertebroplasty surgery in Milan on July 31 to stabilise his fractured vertebrae and speed up his recovery but like fellow crash victim Richie Porte (BMC Racing), he struggled to be competitive at the Vuelta a Espana against the likes of eventual winner Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ).
“He’s a fundamental part of the national team, the results say Moscon’s ready for an important role. Yes, even as team leader,” Nibali said, despite worries that even an on-form Moscon will struggle on the 25 per cent sections of the final Höll climb.
Moscon won the Coppa Agostoni and the testing Giro della Toscana last week despite serving a five-week ban for hitting out at Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo-Oscaro) during stage 15 of the Tour de France.
He is part of Team Sky’s squad for the team time trial but will then head to Torbole near Lake Garda to join the Italian road race team.