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Nibali: ‘It’s about the Liege win, not places and points’

GENT, Belgium (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali will risk losing in a big attack in order to win Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He said that others are too afraid or think too much about WorldTour points to make a move like the one that nearly landed him a Milano-Sanremo victory in March.

“The teams don’t want to try these big and long moves because they are thinking of the WorldTour classification,” Nibali told VeloNews. “The riders all think about bringing in points because they are important for the teams and for their contracts.”

The Italian in Astana’s light blue made such a move at Liège in 2012 when he raced for Liquigas-Cannondale. He attacked on the Côte de La Roche aux Faucons and used his skills to break free on the descent with 19.5 kilometers left.

He held 45 seconds on the favorites group with Philippe Gilbert as he climbed the Saint Nicolas and closed in on the finish in Ans. Maxim Iglinsky followed more closely, however. At the foot of the 1.3km ramp to Ans, he caught Nibali and rode clear to the win. Nibali finished second.

“I’d do it again, too,” Nibali said. “I’m not bitter from two years ago, it was the right thing to do. I didn’t make any mistakes, only that Iglinsky had a great day and was able to pull me back. I lacked the energy at the end to do anything about him.”

Nibali showed his love for the long-range attack in Milano-Sanremo four weeks ago. He shot free on the Cipressa climb with 25km to race and lasted until the Poggio, with 9km remaining to his first monument victory.

“I can do it solo in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but Milano-Sanremo is another story. Sanremo is 300 kilometers, not 250, so any sort of extra effort you do … It’s difficult,” Nibali added. “For Milano-Sanremo, I could’ve used someone with me on my attack. I had many kilometers ahead of me. Ahead of my move on the Cipressa, I spoke with someone. I won’t say or name names of those who should’ve gone with me. Instead, I was on my own.”

Nibali named Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara after the race. This week, though, he complimented Cancellara’s racing tactics.

“Riders like me and Cancellara don’t think about the points, just the win,” he said. “That way of thinking, about placings and WorldTour points, it’s a big downward spiral. It’s a shame for cycling because it steals the show from the fans but that’s the way it is because many riders have contracts that are linked to points so they watch the classification closely.”

Nibali won the 2010 Vuelta a España and last year took top honors in the Giro d’Italia’s overall classification. His aim is trained on the Tour de France this year. He is ramping toward the Tour with specific training and spent two weeks at altitude in Tenerife prior to arriving in Belgium last week. He went over the border to France Thursday to ride the cobbled sectors of the Tour’s fifth stage.

Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne, but more so Liège-Bastogne-Liège, remain his last goals this spring before taking a break and returning at June’s Critérium du Dauphiné ahead of the July 5 start for the Tour de France.

“Liège suits me with its long climbs,” he said. “I’ll have to see what the situation’s like on Sunday, but I’m not afraid to attack from far out.”