Nibali was the first winner of the race following the leader's jersey change from gold to red. He enjoyed a second stint in red in 2013 for 13 days, only to fade in the final days as American Chris Horner took the overall win by 37 seconds.
The Vuelta has a special place in Nibali's palmares as the first of his four Grand Tour wins.
Nibali's return to the Vuelta in 2015 was short lived as he was disqualified on stage 2 for holding onto his then Astana team car. While Nibali struggled with the decision, having finished fourth at the Tour de France in July of that year, teammate Fabio Aru took the overall win and relieved the pressure after Nibali's expulsion.
In his first season with Bahrain-Merida, Nibali was third overall at the Giro d'Italia in May and is now focused on the Vuelta. It will be the fourth time that the Italian has done the Giro, Vuelta double.
"I'm happy with the answers I got about my state of form. I was returning from a period of altitude training so I knew that I couldn't be super competitive in Poland. Bearing this in mind, this ninth-place inclines me to say that I've worked well and I'll be in top shape for La Vuelta," said Nibali after the Tour de Pologne where he was ninth overall.
"I've always liked La Vuelta. I have won it and the courses in Spain suit me. As always, I'll start to give my best and everyone will see on September 10 what I mean now."
While Nibali has twice finished on the Vuelta podium and worn the leader's jersey for 20 days, he has just one stage win at the race from 2010. With numerous stages suited to his climbing characteristics, Nibali could well add to his haul but it yet to acquaint himself with the finer details of the road book.
I don't know all the uphill finishes but some of them, I do! I know l'Alto de l'Angliru particularly well while for the other climbs, I'll ask my friend ‘Purito'. On paper, it looks to me like a "standard" Vuelta: hard and demanding," he said of the penultimate stage.
With a stacked start list of GC riders that includes the returning Alberto Contador, Tour de France champion Chris Froome, 2015 Vuelta winner Fabio Aru, Tour de France runner-up Romain Bardet, last year's Vuelta podium finisher Esteban Chaves, Adam and Simon Yates and numerous more names, Nibali is wary of his rivals.
They're all great riders and it guarantees a nice spectacle," he said of the depth. "Some come from the Tour de France and others have done the Giro d'Italia with me but all can target the podium or the final victory. I don't think there's one clear favorite. Moreover, I believe the course can generate some surprises.
Bahrain-Merida's long list for the Vuelta includes several of Nibali's trusted Grand Tour domestiques in Valerio Agnoli, Franco Pellizotti and Giovanni Visconti. Also making the cut are Manuele Boaro, Ivan Cortina Garcia, Javier Moreno, Antonio Nibali, Domen Novak, and Tsgabu Grmay.
The 2017 Vuelta a Espana starts August 19 with a team time trial in Nimes and will conclude in Madrid on September 10. A winner of the team time trial with Astana in 2013, Nibali will be hoping Bahrain-Merida can replicate the success and start the Vuelta on the front foot in his bid for a fifth Grand Tour victory.
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