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Nibali sets sights on September worlds

MILAN (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour de France party is nearing its end with a fan club gathering in his honor Saturday in Pistoia, Italy. The Astana rider from Sicily will raise a glass of bubbly and then get down to the business of programming his season finale.

“The Shark” is looking toward the world championship road title September 28 via a series of one-day races. On tap is a trip to his sponsor’s home in Kazakhstan near the end of August and the three Trittico Lombardo races — Coppa Bernocchi, Coppa Agostoni, and Tre Valli Varesine, September 16-18.

“It’s enough if he trains well, with moto-pacing to simulate the races,” Astana trainer Paolo Slongo told VeloNews. “Ideally, it’d be better to race more, but there aren’t many alternatives if you don’t race the Vuelta a España.”

Nibali will skip the Vuelta, which he won in 2010 and placed second in behind Chris Horner in 2013, but could slot in the Vattenfall Cyclassics on August 24 and, more likely, the GP Ouest France-Plouay on August 31. A trip to Canada is not on his itinerary even if current world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) used the one-day races in Québec and Montreal as a lead-up last year.

“The Canadian races could work out, but they can also work against you depending on how your body reacts to the jet lag,” added Slongo. “It’s better possibly that he remains in Italy and races and trains at home.”

Slongo will see Nibali Saturday for the first time since they toasted to victory in Paris more than a week ago. Since that time, Nibali has been on a tour of the northern countries racing criteriums. He raced in Aalst, Wolvertem, Lommel, Herental and Ninove — all in Belgium — and Stiphout and Surhuisterveen in The Netherlands.

“The criteriums will serve him well because they are fast,” Italian national coach Davide Cassani told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. “He’ll need 10 days to unplug and then training to get back to his top.

“The great thing is that he wants to do it, he can taste that [rainbow] jersey. The pressure of the Tour will work in his favor because he’ll fell less stress than the others feel.”

Last year, Nibali was in a winning position at the worlds in Florence but crashed ahead of the final circuit. He returned but could only manage fourth.

The criteriums, the trip to Kazakhstan, and racing Trittico Lombardo may not be ideal leading to the worlds, where Nibali will also race the team time trial with Astana. Cassani said he wants Nibali to race more than Trittico Lombardo and that he will work on the pre-worlds program with Slongo.

“I could go to his home in Lugano, work with him three days a week and follow him well,” Slongo added. “That’s the best solution leading to the worlds.”