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NICE, France (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) admits he might have to wait a year before having a real shot at winning Milano-Sanremo.
The Italian, who wrapped up Paris-Nice on Sunday, shot to the top of the favorites list when race organizers decided to sandwich the Pompeiana climb between the Cipressa and Poggio in the profile of the season’s first classic.
Road damage, however, means that Pompeiana’s controversial debut will have to wait until 2015. And that puts Nibali’s ambitions on ice.
“Milano-Sanremo would be complicated to win for me this year,” Nibali told reporters on Saturday. “Without Pompeiana or La Maniè, it will be more of a sprinter’s race again.”
So much so, that Nibali is not yet confirmed he will start.
After wrapping up Paris-Nice on Sunday, where he attacked a few times but did not show top form, Nibali will sit down with Astana sport director Giuseppe Martinelli to discuss his racing program. Also in doubt is a planned start at Critérium International.
Nibali is confirmed for the Ardennes classics, with starts in Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, before racing Tour de Romandie.
With the more demanding profile that included the Pompeiana, Nibali seemed, on paper, to perhaps become the first Italian Sanremo winner since Filippo Pozzato in 2006.
Yet without Pompeiana, or La Maniè, which was removed with the inclusion of Pompeiana, the course reverts to the version last used in 2007.
During an 11-year run, the race concluded in a reduced bunch sprint eight out of 11 times. With the odds against him, Nibali is downplaying his chances if decides to race.
“With the removal of La Maniè and Pompeiana, riders like John Degenkolb, Peter Sagan, or Marcel Kittel will have a chance to win,” Nibali said.
Nibali rode to a career-best third at Sanremo in 2012, behind Simon Gerrans and Fabian Cancellara. He abandoned in the horrible winter weather that marred last year’s race.
The Ardennes remain an important goal for Nibali, yet he admits without the Pompeiana, he stands little chance of victory Sunday for Milano-Sanremo.
“I think I will have chances to win before the Tour,” Nibali said. “The Ardennes are races that suit me better. I’ve already done some good things there. I would love to win Liège.”
Paris-Nice training camp
Nibali posted a solid, if restrained week of racing at Paris-Nice, finishing a discreet 21st, confirming that challenging for the GC was never in the cards.
“Paris-Nice did not suit me, without long climbs or time trials,” he continued. “This is a very tactical race. The most important thing is that the form is coming up.”
Many were surprised to see Nibali pass on trying to win Tirreno-Adriatico for a third straight time when he decided to race Paris-Nice instead.
“It was the team’s decision that I come to Paris-Nice, with the idea of getting to know French roads a little better,” he said. “I haven’t raced a lot in France, so it’s a good idea before the Tour.”
Nibali admitted he was far from top form to fight for the overall, especially with a crash at the Tour de San Luís that left him with a cracked rib in January. And the recent arrival of his first child recently also meant that Nibali is far from firing at all cylinders — racing off the radar, in France, while many of his GC rivals were full gas in Italy was just what Nibali needed.
It’s all part of a slow buildup to July, when Nibali will attempt to win the Tour de France. As he said, what happens in March won’t count for much this summer.
“I beat [Chris] Froome last year at Tirreno, true, but that doesn’t count for anything this year,” he said. “I am feeling better and better by the day. We are only at the beginning of spring, and the Tour is not until the summer. I am not worried.”