Vincenzo Nibali is not riding this year's Giro d'Italia and so will miss the three stages in Sicily, but he has revealed he gave up a chance to race on his local roads to have what is probably a final chance to win a second Tour de France. Nibali is likely to return to the Giro d'Italia in 2019 and is close to extending his contract with Bahrain-Merida to include the 2020 and possibly even the 2021 seasons.
Nibali’s brother, Antonio is part of the Bahrain-Merida squad at the Giro d’Italia and his parents will travel down the coast from their hometown of Messina for Tuesday's stage from Catania to Caltagirone.
Nibali has respected the unwritten rule of not attending races unless he is racing. He is currently training at his base in Switzerland before taking part in his Gran Fondo Squali sportif ride on Saturday on the Adriatic coast. He will then head to Mount Teide for a pre-Tour de France training camp on May 14.
Nibali was the local hero when the 2017 Giro d'Italia visited Sicily and his hometown of Messina.
The three stages in Sicily made it hard for him to miss this year’s race but the Bahrain-Merida team was keen for him to focus 100 per cent on the Tour de France.
"I’m really sorry not to be at the Giro. The Giro in Sicily has always been spectacular and will be this year too," Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Giro d'Italia director Mauro Vegni revealed the details of Nibali's difficult decision to miss his home Grand Tour after five podium places in recent years.
"Vincenzo explained his decision over dinner in February, saying: 'I'm really sorry, Mauro, the Giro has a special place in my heart but this year is perhaps the last chance I'll have to try to win a second Tour. If I don’t try this year…' At that point I stopped being the Giro director for a moment and told him I understood his decision," Vegni told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
The Bahrain-Merida team was built round Nibali when it was created for the 2017 season. He finished third at the 2017 Giro d’Italia and second behind Chris Froome at the Vuelta a España before winning Il Lombardia for a second consecutive season. This year he surprised the sprinters with a solo attack to win Milan-San Remo.
Nibali will be 34 in November but seems keen to race on until at least the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan and perhaps even through to the end of 2021 when he will be 37.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa is ready to offer Nibali a contract extension beyond his current deal that expires at the end of 2019. Nibali is keen that any deal includes his group of trusted staff including coach Paolo Slongo, soigneur Michele Pallini, and team doctor Emilio Magni.