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Nibali changes Sanremo tune

MILAN, Italy (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali initially ruled out racing in Saturday’s Milano-Sanremo, but he will participate in the one-day monument regardless after team Astana named him as its leader.

The Italian grand tour star is building for the Giro d’Italia this year. He has raced Milano-Sanremo eight times already and finished third in 2012 behind winner Simon Gerrans of Orica – GreenEDGE.

Nibali is the most complete grand tour cyclist, having won the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España, and the one-day monument Il Lombardia.

However, just over a week ago, he had written off the nearly 300-kilometer race from Lombardy’s capital to the Ligurian coastal town of Sanremo. He said he preferred to race Belgium’s monument Liège-Bastogne-Liège instead in late April.

“This year, the Mànie climb isn’t there, so it’s suited to the sprinters. My idea after Tirreno-Adriatico is to ride a block at altitude, then the Giro del Trentino and the Giro d’Italia. And Liège-Bastogne-Liège too. Liège will be a good test for me,” Nibali told journalists at Tirreno-Adriatico.

“If [RCS Sport cycling director] Mauro Vegni thinks about putting in extra climbs, then OK, but if it remains this way, it doesn’t make sense for me to do it. I don’t know. If the team says I need to do it, then I’ll be there, but in this case, I don’t feel the need to say that Sanremo suits me. People know my characteristics. It’s not easy to win that race. I can try from the Poggio, but that’s not easy. If Sanremo has the Mànie climb, and it was a bit harder, then OK, maybe I’d have a chance.”

Nibali’s tune changed, however, when the Kazakh WorldTour team in turquoise put him on its eight-man roster for Saturday. The squad also includes Lars Boom, Andriy Grivko, and Luis León Sánchez.

“I’m racing Milano-Sanremo because it’s beautiful,” Nibali said in La Gazzetta dello Sport’s pink newspaper pages Friday. “I’m racing because my friends are asking for me, teammates, fans… I’m racing because I hope to also have a little bit of luck.”

Gerrans came out on top when he escaped with Nibali and Fabian Cancellara on the Poggio climb in the 2012 edition.

In 2014, Nibali tried to attack from 25km out on the Cipressa climb. “It’s difficult to go so far out,” he said. “But if you go hard, you burn the sprinters’ muscles. In 2014, I made a deal to attack with Peter Sagan there, but he didn’t go with me.”

Nibali fell out with RCS Sport over its decision to cancel the summit finish Sunday in Tirreno-Adriatico due to bad weather. Astana said it is considering racing Nibali in the Tour de France instead of RCS Sport’s Giro d’Italia in May.

The decision to race Milano-Sanremo could be a way of making peace with the Milan-based organizer. Despite the last-minute change, Nibali is not too convinced of his chances.

“Even if they are at 80 percent, the sprinters can get over the Cipressa and Poggio climbs and play for the win.”

Frenchman Laurent Jalabert was the last cyclist to win both a grand tour and Milano-Sanremo.