Italian Grand Tour star Vincenzo Nibali makes his racing debut for Bahrain-Merida at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina, January 23-29
The 32-year-old from Sicily, Italy, has previously started his season in the South American country, and this year will use it as his first step towards defending his Giro d’Italia title in May.
“I always come back very willingly, without forgetting that South America has often brought me luck in the rest of the season,” said Nibali.
“The climate here is ideal, while training in Italy with just a few degrees above zero is almost impossible.”
Nibali will travel with five team-mates to Argentina a few days ahead of the race to get in some training miles and adapt to the climate.
Nibali has won all three Grand Tours during his career, claiming the Vuelta a España in 2010, the Tour de France in 2014 and twice winning the Giro – in 2013 and 2016. Last year, Nibali also won the early-season Tour of Oman, and often hits early races with decent form.
This year, Nibali is likely to face former Astana team-mate Fabio Aru at the Giro and 2016 Vuelta winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who won the Giro in 2014. British rider Geraint Thomas will co-lead Team Sky in the race with Spaniard Mikel Landa, setting up one of the strongest line-ups of three-week racers to grace the race in recent seasons.
The seven-stage Vuelta a San Juan includes flat stages, mountains and a 11.9-kilometre individual time trial. Joining Nibali at the race will be Tom Boonen and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Rui Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi).
Bahrain-Merida report that Nibali’s brother and team-mate Antonio had an unfortunate start to the season, crashing during a training ride and suffering from abrasions to his hip, hands and knee.