MILAN (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), despite a recent Giro d’Italia victory, must prove he can lead the national team at the world championship this September. According to former teammate Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Nibali has work to do and the Italian team’s role of captain remains open.
“He’ll be the captain if he merits it,” Basso told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Also, he knows what I can give. I think believes in me.”
Basso is coming back from a forced break, restarting Sunday in the national championships in Trentino. With Peter Sagan leading Cannondale’s Tour de France team starting next weekend, Basso was due to head the Italian squad in the Giro d’Italia last month. However, a severe saddle sore forced him to abandon on the eve of the race and re-work his schedule.
After the 229-kilometer Italian championship road race, Basso will compete at the Tour of Austria, the Tour of Poland, Vuelta a Burgos, and the Vuelta a España. The 34-year-old is uncertain of winning the Vuelta, Spain’s three-week grand tour, but he expects a top-three result and a boost ahead of the world championships in Florence in September.
Basso, in reality, will be thankful simply to wear the famous maglia azzurra of Italy’s national team. The federation created a rule in 2011 that bans riders who served doping bans of six months or more from participating. Only a modification, rejecting the rule’s retroactive application, allows Basso and others the opportunity to race.
Starting in 2007, Basso served a two-year suspension for his ties to the Operación Puerto doping investigation. Investigators found his blood stored in Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes’ refrigerator.
Over the winter, Nibali split with Cannondale, then known as Liquigas-Cannondale, to join Astana. He spent seven years, the majority of his professional career, with the team. He helped Basso win the Giro d’Italia and won the Vuelta a España in 2010.
Nibali has very few one-day wins on his palmarès — GP Ouest-France, Toscana, Appennino, Camaiore, and Melinda. However, he has come close to bagging several big wins recently. Last year, he placed third in Milano-Sanremo and nearly rode solo to a Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory.
He led the world championship team in 2012, but said he “lacked the legs” to follow eventual winner Philippe Gilbert of Belgium.
“The course didn’t suit him, but we will be a force to reckon with on the Florence course,” national coach Paolo Bettini explained last month. “He can win this world championship. With the Giro, he’s completed a circle. He’s improved as a man and how he manages a team.”
If selected, Basso will likely be assigned to helping Nibali. In balance is a rare Giro-worlds double, not seen since Stephen Roche accomplished the feat in 1987. Roche also won the Tour de France that year. Greg LeMond won the Tour de France and the road worlds title in 1989.