Vincenzo Nibali has his pre-Tour de France plan in hand for 2015. Though team Astana was toying with racing the Giro d'Italia, Nibali instead will tailor his schedule to be ready to defend his title in France this July.
The 30-year-old Sicilian begins his season at the Dubai Tour on February 4. Team Astana's head coach, Paolo Slongo outlined the rest of his schedule to Cycling Weekly: The Tour of Oman, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, the Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Nibali will fit in altitude training camps at key moments in the season, likely before the Ardennes Classics mid-April and the Critérium du Dauphiné in June. He should train with his Tour de France group in Tenerife off the west coast of Africa.
This month, until January 23, he is building for 2015’s start in Dubai with the Kazakh team in Calpe, Spain.
His European debut takes place at home in Italy, covering the roads from Siena, for Strade Bianche, to San Remo in the month of March. The 2015 edition of Tirreno-Adriatico, which he won in 2012 and 2013, will pit him against the top grand tour stars: Chris Froome (Team Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and 2014 winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Contador will be the only one of the big four classification riders racing the Giro d'Italia. Despite pressure from home, Nibali will not return for the second year in a row after winning the 2013 edition.
Slongo said that he wants to avoid over-cooking Nibali ahead of the Tour de France in July.
"I'd like to go back and win [the Giro], it's a special race for me," Nibali told Cycling Weekly in November.
"It makes more sense, however, to race it the 2016 season."
Astana's Fabio Aru will have home favourite status when he starts the race on May 31. In 2014, he finished third overall behind Colombians Quintana and Rigoberto Urán.
After finishing Milan-San Remo on Italy's Mediterranean coast, Nibali will back off the throttle and re-focus for the Ardennes starting four weeks later with the Amstel Gold Race. The six-week period between Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Dauphiné will be his last 'off' period before his final ramp to the Tour de France.
In 2014, critics argued that Nibali was not ready for the Tour ahead of Dauphiné. Slongo took note and cut January's Tour de San Luis and the Tour de Romandie in late April after the Ardennes Classics. He explained that Nibali could be competitive to win in Oman, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Ardennes Classics ahead of the Tour.
The change gives Nibali 30 days of racing, compared to 45 in 2014, ahead of the Tour de France.
4-7 February, Dubai Tour
17-22 February, Tour of Oman
7 March, Strade Bianche
11-17 March, Tirreno-Adriatico
22 March, Milano-San Remo
19 April, Amstel Gold Race
22 April, La Flèche Wallonne
26 April, Liège-Bastogne-Liège
7-14 June, Critérium du Dauphiné
4-26 July, Tour de France
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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