PARIS (AFP) — Astana believes it can win the upcoming Giro d’Italia, which starts in Naples on Saturday, with its in-form team leader Vincenzo Nibali.
The Sicilian-born rider, already a winner of one of the other major tours, the Vuelta a Espana, was tipped for success in the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday by the Kazakhstan cycling federation-backed outfit’s manager Alexander Vinokourov.
“He’s already won the Tour of Spain and he has taken third place in the Tour de France,” pointed out Vinokourov, who retired from racing after his Olympic road race title in London last year.
“He’s ready to fight for the pink jersey,” added the Astana boss. Nibali recently won the Giro del Trentino.
The home favorite has been picked out as a major obstacle to victory by Briton’s first ever Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, who said on Monday: “This race is more suited to him and it’s his pride and joy. I think he’s in better shape than he’s ever been and he’s got everything, all the attributes, steeper climbing, the tricky descents, all the things the Giro throws at you, he’s got.”
Vinokourov, for his part, suggested it was difficult to assess the threat posed by Wiggins, who unlike Nibali is also targeting the Tour de France again.
“We don’t really know if Bradley Wiggins is out to win the Giro or use it as part of his preparation for the Tour de France,” Vinokourov said. “But he’s won the Tour de France and the Olympic time trial title, we can’t ignore him.”
Besides Wiggins, Astana points to Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), 2012 Giro champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), and Robert Gesink (Blanco) as key threats to Nibali.
Astana for the Giro d’Italia (May 4-26)
Vincenzo Nibali (ITA)
Valerio Agnoli (ITA)
Fabio Aru (ITA)
Dmitri Gruzdev (KAZ)
Tanel Kangert (EST)
Fredrik Kessiakoff (SWE)
Paolo Tiralongo (ITA)
Alessandro Vanotti (ITA)
Andrey Zeits (KAZ)