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Vincenzo Nibali adds Étoile de Bessèges to race programme after Valenciana postponement

Trek-Segafredo's Vincenzo Nibali climbs the Passo dello Stelvio during stage 18 of the 2020 Giro
Trek-Segafredo's Vincenzo Nibali climbs the Passo dello Stelvio during stage 18 of the 2020 Giro (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) will start his season at Étoile de Bessèges next week following the postponement of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Sicilian had been scheduled to begin the 2021 season in Valencia but his Trek-Segafredo team announced on Saturday that he will instead line up at Étoile de Bessèges, which takes place from February 3-7. Giulio Ciccone, who had also been expected to ride alongside Nibali in Spain, will now start his campaign at the Tour de la Provence, which takes place from February 11-14.

With early-season race days at a premium following cancellations and postponements in Spain, Argentina, Australia and Portugal, teams have been forced to rearrange their rosters. Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Michael Matthews (Team DSM) were among the riders slated to start their seasons at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. 

AG2R Citroën have already confirmed that Greg Van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen will, like Nibali, replace the postponed Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana with Étoile de Bessèges.

Nibali has confirmed that he will ride both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 2021 as he builds towards the road race at the Tokyo Olympic Games. The Italian had initially been due to race at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Volta ao Algarve in February, but both races have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. He will instead ride in Bessèges before continuing at France at the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var (February 19-21), where Ciccone will also participate.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Nibali will then race in Italy in March, lining out at the Trofeo Laigueglia, GP Larciano, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo. Ahead of the Giro, he will line out at the Tour of the Alps (April 19-23) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April 25).

Speaking to reporters earlier this month, Nibali said that he aimed to race with greater freedom early in 2021 rather than build gradually towards a distant objective.

“I’ll be approaching things day by day, race by race. It’s a decision that I made because I didn’t really want to focus on just one objective,” said Nibali, who turned 36 in November.

Nibali will ride the Giro alongside Ciccone and Bauke Mollema. La Gazzetta dello Sport reported on Friday that Ciccone is likely to sign a two-year contract extension with Trek-Segafredo that will keep him at the team through the end of 2023, despite reported interest from UAE Team Emirates and AG2R Citroën.

Ciccone’s 2020 season was hindered by a coronavirus diagnosis, but Trek-Segafredo have shown their faith in the Italian by handing him the responsibility of leading the team’s GC challenge at the Vuelta a España.

"For sure, it’s a big responsibility, that’s true. But I’m young and I have a lot of opportunities,” Ciccone said earlier this month. “And I’ll have another Giro with Vincenzo first, so I can study a bit more. I’ll have another year – well, almost a whole season – to improve my skills, for example in the time trial. So I have time and I don’t have a lot of pressure."