Vincenzo Nibali will make his season debut at Etoile de Bessèges for the first time this week. After a disappointing 2020 Giro d'Italia, where he finished a distant seventh behind surprise winner Tao Geoghegan Hart, the Trek-Segafredo veteran said he changed his training during the off season to include more intensity with the hopes of getting back to his best for the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Olympic Games.
The 36-year-old has been on a Grand Tour podium 11 times during his career and has won all three – the Tour de France in 2014, Vuelta a España in 2010 and the Giro d'Italia twice in 2013 and 2016. With the exception of 2018 – when a spectator caused him to crash and fracture a vertebrae – and 2020, Nibali has been on or near the podium of a Grand Tour every season for a decade and aims to get back there this season.
"I've always approached the season with a few well-defined goals set on the calendar, but this year I've chosen to change it," Nibali said. "The Giro, Tour and the Olympics are obviously events that I want to attend at my highest level, but the road that will take me there will not only be used as a path of growth in condition.
"Every race will have its importance, every day will be lived with the focus on the present and not necessarily on what will be [in the future]. I want to race with my mind free of future expectations, driven by that healthy competitive edge that motivates me to bring out the best."
For much of his career, Nibali has started his season either in Argentina or in the Middle East, but the coronavirus pandemic has led to the cancellation of warm weather starts in the Vuelta a San Juan and Tour of Oman. While the UAE Tour is still expecting to go ahead, Nibali is keeping his calendar closer to home, with the Etoile de Bessèges this week, Tour des Alpes in France before a March calendar centred in Italy.
Nibali admitted to making mistakes during the COVID-19-hit 2020 season, where racing ground to a halt in March before returning for a highly compressed and intense three months of racing in the late summer. He had just one stage race, Tirreno-Adriatico, before the Giro d'Italia and last year he said in retrospect he would have done more racing and fewer training camps.
This year, he's coming into the season with more intensity in his legs.
"I decided to change my approach to the season, with a more intense winter. It's a substantial change from my habits, but I felt I had to do it," he said.
"I don't think I have anything to prove, even though the 2020 season was definitely below expectations. But this doesn't mean that I don't want to show that I can still have my say, that I can still compete at a great level."
Nibali will head up the Trek-Segafredo roster for Etoile de Bessèges with Bauke Mollema and former world champion Mads Pedersen.
Trek-Segafredo for Etoile de Bessèges: Alex Kirsch, Bauke Mollema, Ryan Mullen, Vincenzo Nibali, Mads Pedersen, Mattias Skjelmose, Edward Theuns
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