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"In February, he will be in Oman if the birth of his child allows it. Then he will do the Paris-Nice, Sanremo, Criterium International, the Northern classics, Romandie and the Dauphiné. Before and after the Dauphiné, he w...

Photo: Sirotti








23.11.2013 @ 11:24 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Vincenzo Nibali has finalized the race schedule that should allow him to line up at the Tour de France in the best shape possible. While he was the dominant rider on Italian soil in 2013, he will have a much more international calendar in 2014, with the Milan-Sanremo being his only race in his home country in the first half of the season.


Ever since Vincenzo Nibali stepped down from the podium in Brescia where he had been celebrated as the 2013 Giro d'Italia champion, the Italian has made it clear that his intention is to win the 2014 Tour de France. The French grand tour is the only three-week race that he hasn't conquered and he will do his utmost to improve on the 3rd place he took when he last rode the race in 2012.


Many Italians had hoped that Nibali would return to the Giro to defend his title but yesterday he effectively ruled out the option, claiming that the two grand tours were too close. Instead, he made it clear that he intends to make the Milan-Sanremo the centrepiece of his spring campaign as the inclusion of the Pompeiana climb in the finale should tip the balance away from the sprinters.


Today, Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli confirms those two key points. Currently at the first Astana gathering in Montecatini Terme, the Italian has revealed Nibali's schedule for the first half of the season.


In 2013, Nibali mostly rode on Italian soil and was a dominant figure. In March, he beat Chris Froome to defend his Tirreno-Adriatico title and in April, he won the Giro del Trentino before going on to claim the Giro crown.


In 2014, the schedule will be much more international. In fact, Milan-Sanremo will be his only race in his home country in the first half of the season.


It is already known that he will kick off his campaign in the Tour de San Luis in January.


"In February, he will be in Oman if the birth of his child allows it," Martinelli told Gazzetta dello Sport. "Then he will do the Paris-Nice, Sanremo, Criterium International, the Northern classics, Romandie and the Dauphiné. Before and after the Dauphiné, he will train at altitude."


The tentative schedule means that he will skip the new race in Dubai which is organized by Giro organizers RCS Sport. In previous statements, he had indicated that he was likely to participate in the event but now appears to have preferred the hillier race in Oman.


Many will be surprised to realize that Nibali will do the Paris-Nice instead of the Tirreno-Adriatico which he has won twice in a row.


"The French race offers one more day of rest before Sanremo which has become a big target with the inclusion of the Pompeiana. With that rest, you can prepare better," Martinelli said. "And there is another factor which is not unimportant. Nibali is a champion in Italy but now needs a more international dimension.


"The French race has one more day of rest before San Remo, with the Pompeiana becomes a big target, and that with rest, you can prepare better," Martinelli said. "And there is another factor, not secondary. Nibali is a champion in Italy, but now need a more international dimension."


In April, Nibali will focus on the classics, hoping to finally win the Liege-Bastogne-Liege which narrowly escaped him in 2012. Martinelli also confirms that he may do the Tour of Flanders to prepare for the Tour de France stage that includes several cobblestone sections.


"The idea of taking him to the Tour of Flanders to see the cobblestones gets stronger, "Martinelli said. "After Amstel and Liege, I don't know whether we will see the extraordinary Nibali of last season."


Recently, Astana signed Michele Scarponi as a key lieutenant for Nibali in the Tour. The team made it clear that the 2011 Giro champion would get his own chance in the Italian grand tour before going on to support his captain in the French race.


"He will be in the Giro in May to try to win it, then he will help Nibali at the Tour in July," Martinelli said. "Above all he has been hired to help Nibali in the Tour but he is also an investment for Astana in the Giro where he can fight for the pink jersey and guide [Fabio] Aru. We cannot offend a major race like the Giro."


Martinelli revealed that Scarponi will follow a traditional Giro schedule.


"He will be in San Luis with Nibali," he said. "In February he will train at altitude, then he will do the Tirreno-Adriatico, Sanremo, a training camp, Trentino, Liege and the Giro."


With Milan-Sanremo expected to be far harder in the future, Martinelli expects much from his duo of climbers "because they have both been close to success. Maybe you don't remember it but Michele did it in 2011 and was 6th. And it was a Sanremo for sprinters," Martinelli explained.


With Nibali targeting the Tour and Scarponi being the Giro captain, there will be little room for Jakob Fuglsang who was the captain in this year's Tour where he finished 7th. Martinelli confirmed that the Dane will have "a year of sacrifice. He will help Nibali 100%."


The team still hasn't selected its Vuelta captain but it has been rumoured that Tanel Kangert will get his chance in the Spanish race.



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