COMO, Italy (VN) — After Il Lombardia’s barriers and podium were packed Sunday in Como, organizer RCS Sport turned its attention to Monday’s 2016 Giro d’Italia presentation in Milan. Its star for the show, and likely for the grand tour May 6-29, will be Vincenzo Nibali.
Those following the situation closely in Italy say there is an 80 percent chance that Nibali, who won the Giro in 2013 and the Tour de France the next year, will lead Astana in Italy while teammate Fabio Aru — whose say in the team is growing with a contract that runs through 2017 and a Vuelta a España win under his belt — should headline the Tour team.
Speaking this week at the Tre Valle Varesine, which he won solo by eight seconds, Nibali said: “I’d like to race the Giro d’Italia, but the team has to decide.”
VeloNews understands that the decision will come mid-November when the Kazakh squad meets for its 2016 camp in Montecatini Terme.
If Nibali were to race the Giro, he would be the only one of the “bigs” to do so. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and Chris Froome (Sky) are likely to steer a direct course for the Tour de France.
Nibali’s presence would be a coup for the organizer after the 30-year-old Sicilian skipped the last two seasons to focus on the Tour.
Other stars are racing, but they shine less brightly than the four mentioned above. Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) could attend the first half, which includes a long time trial through Chianti. Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), third in the 2014 Tour, and Spaniard Mikel Landa, who is switching to Sky after placing third in the 2015 Giro with Astana, should also be on the start line in the Netherlands on May 6.
Nibali has had a rollercoaster month, with wins in the Coppa Bernocchi and Tre Valle Varesine, an ill-timed puncture at the world road championships, and a victory in Sunday’s ”Race of the Falling Leaves,” Il Lombardia.
But the summer is not that far behind him.
Though Nibali managed a Tour stage win, to the ski resort of La Toussuire, his season was largely viewed as a flop. Nibali largely flew under the radar through the first half of 2015 and at the Vuelta, in search of some redemption, sunk lower. The jury caught Nibali cheating, holding on to the team car to accelerate from a chase group, and ejected him after only two days of racing.
Nibali was said to be on the verge of breaking his 4 million-euro contract with Astana a year early this season. Instead, he and the team had some peace talks to sort out their problems. And now, he’s eager to put 2015 behind him and prepare for 2016.
“I’m going to restart my season on the 16th or 17th of November,” Nibali told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
“Mistakes to avoid? First, even if my fans don’t like it, I won’t have an end-of-year party this year. It takes way too much energy. Last year, I traveled around too much.”
For now, just one trip remains — to this week’s four-stage Tour of Abu Dhabi, which will mark the end of the season for the Shark of Messina.