Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), hot off a crowd-pleasing ride at Milano-Sanremo, will remain focused on the Ardennes classics and skip a planned start at Critérium International this weekend.
The two-day, three-stage French race was tentatively on Nibali’s racing schedule, but Astana officials confirmed Wednesday that the Italian will instead turn his attention toward the upcoming Ardennes classics in late April.
Instead of racing this weekend in the “mini Tour de France” on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, Nibali will instead train at altitude on Spain’s Tenerife island.
“We saw Vincenzo work hard in Paris-Nice and Milano-Sanremo, it’s good news to watch “the Shark” attack, but we need to draw back a little, go back to altitude in Tenerife, to recover from the efforts, and retrain specifically to get ready for the Ardennes,” said Astana sport director Giuseppe Martinelli in a team statement. “[Liège-Bastogne-Liège] is a fundamental, one-day goal in Astana’s 2014 season, and we want Vincenzo to be at real top fitness for the day.”
There was already talk during Paris-Nice that Nibali might skip Critérium. A big push for Nibali this spring is to race more on French roads in his run up to the Tour de France, hence his start in the “Race to the Sun” rather than to defend his title at Tirreno-Adriatico, but the team also wants him to perform well during the spring classics.
Nibali was on the bubble on whether or not to race Milano-Sanremo, with concern that the sprint-friendly course presented more downsides, such as bad weather that could lead to a crash, that would limit his chances of winning.
Nibali did race, and uncorked a brave attack on the Cipressa that livened up the race, and sparked a debate on whether riders are racing too conservatively.
Martinelli said as much after watching in frustration that no one followed Nibali’s attack on the Cipressa.
“I think cycling is changing and people are only riding for places now, they’re not riding to win,” Martinelli told journalists Sunday. “I think that not responding to an attack from Vincenzo, people who have finished second and third without winning Milan-Sanremo, and haven’t won it again this year even though they have the legs to do so, it means that they don’t understand very much.
“If a rider like Vincenzo attacks then it should be a starting point for more attacking. If you want to ride for a sprint, then OK, but a lot of riders were riding for a placing instead of the win.”
Nibali, too, defended his Cipressa attack, and revealed he’s on good form despite not posting spectacular results at Paris-Nice. The French race did not feature any mountaintop finales or time trials, something Nibali said worked against his ambitions for a strong GC performance.
“Paris-Nice did not suit me, without long climbs or time trials,” Nibali said in France. “This is a very tactical race. The most important thing is that the form is coming up. It was the team’s decision that I come to Paris-Nice, with the idea of getting to know French roads a little better. I haven’t raced a lot in France, so it’s a good idea before the Tour.”
By bypassing Critérium, Astana is hoping Nibali will be able to recover and train more effectively at Tenerife and then hit a good run of spring form for the Ardennes classics. Team officials confirmed Nibali will start Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
After that, he will likely race the Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné before the Tour.
For Corsica, the team will bring Michele Scarponi, Jani Brajkovic, and Alexey Lutsenko.