Vincenzo Nibali initially ruled out racing in Saturday’s Milano-Sanremo, but he will participate in the one-day monument regardless after team Astana named him as its leader.
In a long interview with Gazzetta dello Sport on the eve of La Classicissima, the Sicilian talked about how he hopes to break the sprinters’ defensive ‘catenaccio’ tactic, but also about his poor relationship with Fabio Aru and his plans for 2017.
“I’m riding Milan-San Remo because it’s a beautiful race, because my friends, teammates and tifosi have asked me and because I hope to have a chance to win it,” he said.
“The key to Milan-San Remo is the riders and how they race it. It depends on if we ride hard or if there’s a catenaccio. There’s not one point that decides the race, there are several, including the wind, and there’s always the risk that 80 per cent of the sprinters can make it over the Cipressa and the Poggio.
“There are some important riders like Van Avermaet, Sagan, Cancellara that, like me, have to try something. Otherwise, there are riders like [Fernando] Gaviria, [Alexander] Kristoff, [Nacer] Bouhanni and [Michael] Matthews, who are superfast in the sprint,” Nibali said.
“It’s difficult that something happens on the Cipressa but you can hurt the sprinters if we ride it hard and fill their legs with lactic acid. The 9.1km between the Cipressa and the Poggio are never ending. If you attack alone, they’re never ending. I died there in 2014.”
Nibali is more likely to go on the attack on the Poggio. “The Poggio is six minutes of pain and lactic acid. I hope to have the legs so I don’t have to sit on with the sprinters,” he concluded.
The Itaian champion reveals that his relationship with compatriot and fellow team leader Fabio Aru is almost non-existent, suggesting that neither wants to race together in 2017
“I raced with Basso and I’ve noticed the difference between the two, there’s an abyss,” he said, openly critical of Aru. “Ivan was very open; you rarely saw him angry. Not because he was old but because he was wise. Fabio often gets upset and he’s short-tempered. At the time with Ivan I was young but I was different: I followed what Ivan did. Fabio never asks anything; he doesn’t consider you. He trusts other people, especially Paolo Tiralongo, who has raced with lots of different of leaders and has lots of experience.”
Nibali is in the last year of his contract with Astana and as the only Grand Tour winner on the market, he has attracted serious attention from Trek-Segafredo, Lampre-Merida and the new Bahrain Cycling Team that is reportedly under construction and could have Bjarne Riis as team manager.
“After the Giro d’Italia –where I think I’ve got a good chance of winning, it’ll be time to make a decision,” he said.
“It’s far more than a just a matter of economics. The most important thing is my group: my teammates, coach, soigneur, doctor, etc. The team’s project is also important if the team believes in me, there’s got to be total trust, without any question.”
“When you change things, you know what you might leave behind but never know what you’re going to find,” Nibali said revealing that doubts remain about his choice for the future. “I’ve got to say that this year we’ve started the season really well. I’m happy. Vino has made his offer and it includes a list of big bonuses.
“Before I was coached by Paolo Slongo, I would have liked to have worked with (Trek-Segafredo team manager) Luca Guercilena; that’s a sign of how much respect I have for him. They have made their offer because they want a Grand Tour rider. But I’m not really sure if they’re interested in me.”
Nibali does not talk about the offer from Lampre-Merida, reserving a final thought on the possible Bahrain team. “Everyone knows I’ve met the Prince, we met in Dubai (in 2015). He’s got a project in mind. Let’s see if it happens…”
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Astana classic Fabio Aru Giro d'Italia milan - san remo monument Tour de France Vincenzo Nibali