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“I’ll be there,” he told Belgium’s Sudpresse. “The centennial Giro will be the main goal of my season.
“This is a special edition, I am the defending champion and, in addition, it happens to pass my hometown.”
The Giro d’Italia starts on May 5, travels for three days in Sardinia and then visits Italy’s other big island of Sicily. It races into Messina, Nibali’s hometown, on stage five. The race last visited in 2011.
The Sicilian will lead the new Bahrain-Merida team. He will face former Astana team-mate Fabio Aru, who is from Sardinia, and other stars like Team Sky’s Mikel Landa, Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Rafal Majka (Bora).
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“As for the Tour de France, we’ll see after the Giro. My calendar is not yet all defined, but I’ll start in January with the new Tour de San Juan, in Argentina, then the Abu Dhabi Tour, before returning to Italy to race Tirreno-Adriatico. The centenary Giro will be the main objective of the season.”
The Giro celebrates its 100th edition with a race that visits both big islands and most of the boot-shaped country. It only travels outside the border briefly into Switzerland during the Stelvio stage.
To celebrate Italy’s biggest cycling heroes Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi, the race starts in their hometowns of Ponte a Ema and Castellania. If Nibali wins, he would bag a third title, the same number as greats Bartali, Felice Gimondi and Bernard Hinault.
“This is important, for sure, only a few successful champions achieved this. But it is still early to talk about it,” Nibali said.
“There is still so much work to do before the start in Sardinia. In May, it’ll be time to think about who was the strongest.”