Italy's Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) returns to racing today in the Coppa Bernocchi for the first time since winning the Tour de France on July. His plan is to use his next series of races as preparation for the World Championships on September 28.
"I'll do all I can to arrive ready for the goal and give my best to the Italian team," Nibali said at a charity event earlier this month. "Everyone knows that the Tour was my first goal of the year and the Worlds my second."
Nibali won the Tour de France ahead of Frenchmen Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). After the Tour, he raced a series of criteriums, but they were not official races.
The Coppa Bernocchi in northern Italy's Lombardy region today marks his first official appearance since winning four stages of the Tour and the overall by 7-37 minutes. He will wear dossard one, but the favourites for the win are Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida).
The Sicilian will continue with the two other Trittico Lombardo races - the Coppa Agostoni and the Tre Valli Varesine - the Memorial Pantani, the GP Prato. The GP Prato on September 21 will leave 'The Shark' one week until the Ponferrada Worlds in northwest Spain.
The Worlds circuit in Ponferrada suits riders like Sagan and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano), winner of four stages in the Vuelta a España. Nibali, who placed fourth on a harder course in Florence last year, could find it difficult to make a difference and to avoid a sprint.
"Realistically, it's not possible to see Nibali in his same Tour form after his break and various responsibilities," Astana trainer Paolo Slongo told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. "But he hasn't gained much weight, just over a kilo, and without any hitches, he should be at 85-90% in Ponferrada.
"Nibali at that level, in a one-day race, is always a tough customer to deal with. One who creates worry. If he's on a bad day, he could still always help the Italian team."
Head coach will whittle his long list of 16 down to 11 after Thursday’s Tre Valli Varesine.
Nibali won time trial bronze medals as a junior and under 23 cyclist, but his fourth last year was his best result in the elite World Championships.
After the Worlds, Nibali’s plan has not yet been confirmed. He could skip the Giro di Lombardia and 2015 Giro d'Italia presentation to travel to his sponsor's base in Kazakhstan and race the Tour Almaty.
Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali also hints at possibility of riding both Giro d'Italia and Tour in 2015
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