Vincenzo Nibali enjoyed his low-profile season debut at the Dubai Tour, happy to work on his high-end fitness by playing a part in Sonny Colbrelli's lead out train and clock up a solid five days of racing kilometres. The Bahrain-Merida team leader now heads to the Tour of Oman, where the rolling terrain and Green Mountain finish suits him much more.
"It's not a route that suits me but it's good to get going. I stayed out of trouble but did some work for Sonny Colbrelli and got into the race routine," Nibali told Cyclingnews.
"I should have made my season debut in Argentina at the Vuelta a San Juan but I got sick at exactly the wrong time, so we've had to move things around a little. I added the Dubai Tour to get my first taste of racing and it fitted in after the team presentation in Bahrain.
"I'd ridden the Dubai Tour in the past, I know what it's like, so it's not that unusual for me. It was a perfect start to the season."
Nibali is known for his love of racing and could be seen leading the Bahrain-Merida leadout train into position in the final five kilometres on each stage. Despite having the skinny build of a Grand Tour rider, he stuck his elbow out and got stuck in each day, before moving off the front of the peloton with three kilometres to go.
When Colbrelli won stage 4 to Hatta Dam, Nibali played a vital role together with two teammates, helping both to close the gap on lone attacker Brandon McNulty (Rally) and to wear out the sprinters with a high-speed finale to the foot of Hatta Dam.
"There's no point in just riding at the back, I prefer to be up front," Nibali said. "The Tour of Oman is more my thing and another step-up in my season because of the climbing we'll do. I'm curious see how I get on. I've finished first  and second  overall and won the Green Mountain stage [twice, in 2012 and 2016 – ed.]"
Nibali is not afraid to mix up his racing programme. He will again ride Milan-San Remo after targeting overall success at Tirreno-Adriatico and will also ride the Tour of Flanders for the first time. He knows he has little chance of securing a result but he is keen to test his ability on the legendary cobbled climbs of Flanders, knowing it might give him an edge come the cobbled stage at this year's Tour de France.
"I like to think I'm more than just a Grand Tour rider. I've won Il Lombardia twice, I've gone close to winning Milan-San Remo from an attack, so why not try the Tour of Flanders too," Nibali told Cyclingnews.
"It good to try different things for your mind and for you riding abilities. It's difficult to say if I can be competitive. I won't have raced since Milan-San Remo, so we'll see how I get on. I know I don't have the raw power of people like Peter Sagan. I don't know the route, so I don't know the secrets of the cobbles and climbs but I'm up for finding out.
"Riding the Tour of Flanders won't cost me anything as I've moved my training at altitude to later in the season to peak at the Tour de France. The only slight problem is that I'm also riding the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, which starts the day after. I'll have to dash for a flight to get to Spain and my legs will be hurting but that's no big deal because Ion Izagirre will be the Bahrain-Merida team leader there."
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