The British, specifically Team Sky and Chris Froome, focus solely on the Tour de France at the expense of other races, says Italian star Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), and that it’s ‘difficult to fail’ when you can afford to recruit the world’s best riders.
Nibali won the Tour in 2014. He also counts titles from the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España. He just began his season with the new Bahraini team in the Tour de San Juan, which is helping him build towards a run at a third Giro title this May.
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“It is not just the rider, it’s the Sky team, they just think of the Tour while other squads diversify more for other goals,” Nibali said to Marca when asked about the differences between him and Froome.
“The British think about the most important event, the marketing and its important context worldwide. That’s OK, but I think a rider should not think only of the Tour. It’s my point of view.”
Nibali helped start the new Bahraini team after a chance bike ride with the prince. They are beginning with a modest budget around €17 million (£14.5m), compared to Sky’s at £24 million, and with the goal of winning the Giro in 2017.
For 2018, Nibali wants to have another crack at the Tour and Froome. The year he won, Froome abandoned due to a crash.
“[Froome] lives a different cycling. In their team they only think about the Tour and they go with nine leaders… And they prepare completely for that race. Most of them could finish it in the top-10 on their own.
“So when that they go on the front to work, it’s easier to control the race,” Nibali explained.
“As Alberto [Contador] said recently, with a budget of 30 million you can count on many of the best cyclists in the world. When you have people so strong it is very difficult to fail.”
The 100th Giro d’Italia, which starts in 100 days on May 5 holds a special place in Nibali’s heart given the edition and the two stages in his home region. After three days in Sardinia, the race heads to Sicily for two stages, the second finishes in Messina, where Nibali grew up.
Nibali plans to race the Vuelta later in the summer, so he will have to watch the Tour on television in July.
Froome and Contador (Trek-Segafredo) are preparing specifically for the race. The other race favourite, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), is racing both the Giro and Tour.
“Alberto and Froome are doing only the Tour so they will be the two main references. But you have to see what other cyclists will do,” Nibali added.
“I think Esteban Chaves will do the Tour, although in he’s not very strong in the time trial and needs to improve a lot. The Yates brothers are improving and there are always other surprises in the Tour.
“They are all safe again, but next year, I will try to beat them. It will not be easy, of course, but that’s my idea.”