Nibali suffered a non-displaced fracture in his T10 vertebra on stage 12 of the Tour de France on July 19 but thanks to percutaneous vertebroplasty surgery to stabilise the bone, he has been able to start training on the road and has already clocked up several hours in the saddle.
Nibali is unlikely to be an overall contender at the Vuelta a España but considers the final Grand Tour of the season vital preparation for the tough road race at the World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria at the end of September. Nibali has ridden the Vuelta a España five times during his career, winning the Spanish Grand Tour in 2010 and finishing second in 2013 and 2017. Ion and Gorka Izagirre are expected to lead the Bahrain-Merida team, while Nibali focuses on his recovery and perhaps stage victories later in the race.
"Yes, I'm going to ride the Vuelta," Nibali confirmed to La Gazzetta dello Sport after a test ride on a climb near his home in Lugano and a meeting with coach Paolo Slongo, soigneur Michele Palin, team doctor Emilio Magni and osteopath Gianluca Carretta.
Despite experience some pain in his back, Nibali is expected to increase the quantity and then the quality of his training in the final ten days before travelling to the south of Spain. He has largely been inactive since his crash but has not put on more than a kilogram.
"We're quietly optimistic about how things are going but we're going to keep our feet on the ground," Magni explained to Tuttobiciweb.
"Vincenzo still has some pain in his back but it's getting better every day. He's been able to do up to four on the bike and in agreement with Paolo, he'll continue to focus on hours in the saddle rather than any specific work."
On Friday, Nibali did a brief test on a climb near Mendrisio to set a benchmark for more specific high-end training. "Vincenzo is more relaxed now that things have become clearer. He's looking ahead and feeling better all the time," Slongo explained as he prepared Nibali's training plans.
"We're working for the Vuelta a España but we've got to cautious because there's a lot of work to do. We've got to take things day by day and hope everything goes to plan."
If you've ever wanted to know what it feels like to be part of a top-level cycling team, and to be on the ground, inside the barriers, at the Tour de France, then RUNNING WITH WOLVES will take you there. It is available to rent for $3.99 USD or buy for $6.99 USD.