By Gregor Brown
Vincenzo Nibali will have the might of Italy's strongest team behind him for the first time at the 2012 Tour de France. Team Liquigas-Cannondale decided take him to France and leave Ivan Basso to focus on a third Giro d'Italia win.
"My aims are at the Tour," Nibali told Cycling Weekly. "The Giro suits someone who can come prepared to race at the highest level."
The Sicilian focused on the Giro d'Italia this year but was unable to stop Alberto Contador. He finished third behind Michele Scarponi, who he said is a likely candidate to win next year's race. He stopped short of naming his team-mate, Italy's Basso to avoid controversy.
Liquigas-Cannondale's General Manager decided for him, though. In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport after the Tour de France presentation last month, Roberto Amadio said that the short climbs and "nervous" stages suit Nibali. He said that his rider, along with Peter Sagan, will prevail on downhill finishes, like the stage to Porrentruy at the end of the first week.
"The Tour is very adapted to Vincenzo with these stages," Amadio explained. "It's a course that will reward those with courage and those who create chances for themselves. Remember how Nibali and Sagan were attacking on the descents at the Vuelta? Liquigas-Cannondale will work around those two."
Nibali told Cycling Weekly that the Giro d'Italia, starting in Denmark on May 5, is more adapted to him than this year's edition, but that his eyes are on the big race.
"Even with the climbs not as steep as this year," Nibali said, "I am still more of a rouleur/climber."
He last raced the Tour de France in 2009 and finished seventh overall, but that was when he went for experience with former team-mate, Roman Kreuziger. In July, he will have his chance to be the captain.
"Nibali will only race the Tour," Amadio said. "Basso will be the man for the Giro, and could also back Nibali in France."
Nibali was also captain at the 2010 Vuelta a España, which he won. If he wins the Tour de France, it would be just what Amadio needs to encourage its main sponsor to renew. His contract with Liquigas ends next year and his team needs to perform to earn a new one.
Amadio acknowledged that the 96.1 kilometres of time trialling at the Tour will be important, specifically the final 52-kilometre time trial before the final day. He said that this winter Nibali will need to train specifically to profit from his opportunity.
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