The fight for leadership of the Italian team for the world road race championships in Qatar will be played out at the Tour of Britain with both Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) set to use the race as key preparation.
With the men's road race moved back to October 16 and the Vuelta a Espana packed with mountain finishes, the Tour of Britain (September 4-11) and the Eneco Tour (September 19-25) have become important stepping stones towards the world championships.
Viviani recently won gold in the omnium at the Rio Olympic Games but has already started training on the road as he targets a place in the nine-rider Italian squadra for Qatar. Viviani is convinced his sprinting speed and racing ability will mean he can fight for the rainbow jersey against the likes of Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel, Alexander Kristoff and Arnaud Demare. However Viviani faces some serious competition within Italy from Nizzolo, Sacha Modolo, Matteo Trentin, Sonny Colbrelli and Kristian Sbaragli.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Viviani could return to racing at this weekend's GP Plouay with Team Sky before heading to the Tour of Britain. He will then ride the Coppa Bernocchi and the Coppa Agostoni races in Italy on August 14 and 15 before riding the Eneco Tour (September 19-25). The triptych of one-day Italian races will play a major role in shaping the Italian team, with riders likely to race together in a national squad.
Nizzolo boosted by Italian title win
Nizzolo kicked off his build-up to the final part of the season with third place at the EuroEyes Cyclassics race in Hamburg on Sunday. He opted to start his sprint early and so avoided a late crash and a clash with Nacer Bouhanni, who won the sprint but was later relegated for dangerous riding, with victory going to Caleb Ewan (Orica-Bike Exchange).
Nizzolo showed off his Italian champion's red, white and green 'tricolore' jersey in the sprint, with the title giving him extra motivation and a better chance of a leadership role in Qatar.
"I've been thinking about the Worlds ever since I won the Italian title in Boario," Nizzolo told Tuttobiciweb. "I know I've got to be at my very best that day. Of course I want to do well before then too and confirm what I can do.
"I don't think it's a problem if we have two team leaders in Qatar, that's logical. But it's up to the national coach Davide Cassani to decide things. I just want to be ready and I'm sure Elia will be ready too, were both pretty meticulous when it comes to training and we're both pretty ambitious."
Nizzolo is hoping to do well at the GP Plouay, knowing that the one-day French WorldTour race often ends in a sprint contested by a reduced group of riders. He will then travel to Scotland for the start of the Tour of Britain followed by the Eneco Tour.
"I think back-to-back eight-day stage races will let me stack up the right amount of work and give me the form I need," he explained.
"I really like the GP Plouay and I think I'm really suited to the route. I'm not yet at my very best but I hope to be up there. I also hope to ride the Coppa Bernocchi and Coppa Agostoni as part of the Italian team but I've still to talk about that with Cassani when he returns from Rio."