Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) has had a fairly quiet start to the season, but the Italian said that his opening races were providing him with 'the suffering I need'. He admitted that he would like to be going better at this point in the season, but with the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France double on his programme this season, it has been difficult.
Nibali was one of a number of overall contenders that lost time on stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico, finishing 23 seconds down on the race leader Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). He is now almost two minutes down in the general classification with a podium position a far-flung dream. Nibali said that it has been difficult to see his rivals go up the road, but he is trying to keep a positive perspective on it.
"This is the suffering I need," he told Gazzetta dello Sport. "As in the past, I would have liked to have started a little bit stronger, to anticipate the times with the races and training sessions.
“But this season is difficult, with a Giro-Tour double to prepare for. It is difficult to go strong everywhere. For me it is a pain to see so many riders end up in front of me, it's not like I'm happy. The team knows what the path is and it's normal to grow slowly.”
Having focused on just one of either the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the past two years’ Nibali is set for the Giro-Tour double this season. He has only done it twice before and has not done that since 2016 when he used it as his preparation for the Olympic Games in Rio.
After missing it last year, Nibali wanted to go back to the Giro d’Italia this season, though the team was keen to have him at the Tour as well. Nibali explained that he is putting his efforts into the Giro and he will see what comes when he goes to the Tour in July.
"The Giro was my choice, the Tour asked the team for it," said Nibali. "If it was down to me, I would certainly have chosen a very different program.
"My goal is the Giro d'Italia, we will see at the Tour.”
Nibali’s coach Paolo Slongo, who has been with him throughout his career, believes that his rider’s form is in a similar place to this time 12 months ago. He remains confident that there is room for improvement and questions if those that are going strong now can hold their form heading into the bigger goals of the season.
"Look, it's not like we're so far from last year's form at this same time," Slongo told Gazzetta dello Sport. "The margins for improvement, on weight, training and condition are there. I also see that there are riders and teams that are going strong, it remains to be seen if they will be able to maintain this pace throughout the season, but for our goals, we are largely on course."
Following the conclusion of Tirreno-Adriatico on Tuesday, Nibali will head to Milan-San Remo next weekend to defend his title. The Tour of the Alps in April will be his last race before he lines up at the Giro d’Italia in May.