Vincenzo Nibali has confirmed that he will skip the Giro d'Italia in order to focus on the Tour de France in 2018. The Italian did not ride the Tour last year during his debut season at Bahrain-Merida, when he finished on the podium at both the Giro and the Vuelta a España.
"The [Tour] route is quite 'nervous' in comparison with previous editions, much more suited to riders with my characteristics. It's a route that will suit riders like [Romain] Bardet and [Thibaut] Pinot, it has shorter time trials. It's a more varied route," Nibali said at Bahrain-Merida's training camp in Hvar, Croatia on Thursday.
"It was always the idea to ride the Giro in my first year with the team and the Tour in my second, but the route has given me extra motivation."
Nibali's decision to ride the Tour de France in 2018 was largely down to sponsor commitments. Team manager Brent Copeland explained that the team partners were keen on Nibali riding the Tour next season and thanked his key general classification rider for acquiescing, despite the Giro travelling through his homeland once again.
"It hasn't been an easy decision, especially for Vincenzo. The Giro d'Italia goes through his home of Sicily again," said Copeland. "This programme has been put together between team management, partners and sponsors. It's a project that we've worked on since the beginning and the partners have always asked us to work towards the Giro d'Italia in the first year of the project and the Tour de France in the second year. We've respected this and we thank Vincenzo for respecting this. We believe that it is a good Tour de France route."
Winner of the Giro in 2013 and 2016, Nibali placed third overall behind Tom Dumoulin and Nairo Quintana in this year's corsa rosa. The Italian won the dramatic tappone to Bormio and remained in contention for final overall victory up to the final time trial in Milan.
After forgoing the Tour, Nibali returned to place second overall at the Vuelta, and he could yet be handed the title of race winner if Chris Froome (Team Sky) is stripped of his victory following his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol on stage 18 of the race.
News of the Froome case broke on Wednesday morning, and the Team Sky rider must now provide an explanation as to why his sample contained twice the permitted limit of the substance, or face a sanction that could include the loss of his Vuelta title and a lengthy ban.
Nibali added that he will return to the Ardennes Classics, having missed Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year in order to prepare for the Giro. He said that he has yet to decide on the early part of his season, including whether to line out at Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico.
In October, the Sicilian scored his second Il Lombardia victory in three years, and has long stated his desire to add Liège-Bastogne-Liège to his palmarès. Nibali placed second behind Maxim Iglinskiy in La Doyenne in 2012, a year in which he also placed third at Milan-San Remo.
"This year I have the objective of returning to do the big Classics. During the season, we'll look the various possible build-up races, like Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, with the aim of building the second part of the season around the Tour de France," Nibali said.
Nibali is likely to target the hilly World Championships in Innsbruck in the final part of the 2018 season, and could ride the Vuelta a España as preparation for the event.