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Nibali’s tailor-made Tour path goes through Paris-Nice, Flanders

MILAN (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali is following a tailor-made path to the Tour de France, and it’s one that includes Paris-Nice, the cobblestones of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and altitude training on Tenerife.

“I’ll have the same program with training camps and stage races, but it’s aimed at the Tour this year,” Nibali told VeloNews during the off-season.

After the presentation of the new Paris-Nice route Tuesday, Nibali, who is at the Dubai Tour this week, confirmed his plans to contest the “Race To The Sun” in France instead of Italy’s Tirreno-Adriatico, which he won the last two years.

Tour de France owner ASO left time trials and mountaintop finishes out of this year’s Paris-Nice, which takes place March 9-16. The route should suit Nibali, who took the Tirreno lead last year from Chris Froome (Sky) in a tricky, undulating final to Porto Sant’Elpidio.

The French stage race, along with the Critérium International (March 29-30), will help put Nibali in the mood for the Tour. Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli explained that he wants Nibali to broaden his horizons before he takes aim at the Tour following a year away.

“Nibali is a champion in Italy, but now he needs a more international dimension,” Martinelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport in November. “These races will help bring him out of his shell.”

Nibali lost time in the time trials, but managed third place, at six minutes, behind Sky’s Bradley Wiggins in the 2012 Tour. He raced the French grand tour on two other occasions; he finished 20th in 2008 and seventh in 2009. Even in those seasons, the Sicilian spent the majority of his time at home in Italy.

He has raced the Giro d’Italia five times. He placed third in 2010, second in 2011, and won last year. With a Giro and Vuelta a España title in hand, Astana wants to help Nibali to a Tour win, and is shaking up his lead-in to the race to accomplish it.

Nibali’s schedule includes Paris-Nice, Milano-Sanremo, Critérium International, De Ronde, Amstel Gold Race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tour de Romandie, and the Critérium du Dauphiné, which will be his final tune-up ahead of the Tour.

With the Tour in mind, Nibali will race the Tour of Flanders for the first time on April 6. He and the team believe the pavé will be a perfect test for the Tour’s fifth stage, from Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, which covers nine sectors or 15.4 kilometers of some of France’s worst cobbled roads.

Nibali will also travel to altitude, spending time off of western Africa in the April and June.

“I’ll also have two high-altitude camps in Tenerife, about 10-to-15 days each,” Nibali told VeloNews in Argentina in January. “The camps and races in Argentina and Dubai are what I need to prepare because at home we have bad weather.”

Nibali will modify his schedule and skip the Tour of Oman for the birth of his first child. His wife Rachele Perinelli is due February 20, two days after Oman starts, and Nibali wants to be home. Froome will be in Oman, however, to start his own march toward a Tour defense against Nibali.

The Italian won’t be concerned, however, and called his daughter’s birth “just one of those life events I can’t miss.” He will hope to give his daughter a life event not to be missed in Paris in July, but much work is to be done first.