Attention falls heavily on the Italian Grand Tour star after his solo Poggio attack and Via Roma win in Milan-San Remo two weeks ago. It is his first race since then, and his first time racing on the Tour of Flanders’ cobbled roads.
“I made requests in the past to race Flanders, but it didn’t happen,” 33-year-old Nibali explained.
“I am going to race here with much attention. There are often crashes here that could impede the rest of your season. For sure, I won’t risk it out there.”
Nibali’s season is built around Liège-Bastogne-Liège and racing the Tour de France for a second title. Racing the Tour of Flanders was planned initially simply to have some cobbles mixed into his schedule with the Tour’s ‘Paris-Roubaix’ stage nine.
Celebrating on Via Roma was not even a consideration when 2018 began with him missing the Vuelta a San Juan due sickness on the eve of the tour.
Now, however, with that win in Milan-San Remo, some insiders say Nibali should be among the race favourites even if it is his Flanders debut.
“The important thing will be to get to these climbs with team-mates who can guide me, and then try to do a good race. It will be hard to do well in my first year on the race, but on the face of it, it’s a race that I like.”
Nibali arrived on Wednesday and Thursday. Before a team press conference in Kortrijk at the team hotel where Fabian Cancellara and CSC/Saxo Bank used to sleep, he previewed the final 80 kilometres of the Tour of Flanders.
“It’s significant pavé and you’ll feel it in your legs because you are burning so much energy in the race. If I’m honest, though, the cobbles in Paris-Roubaix are much harder and more difficult to manage.
“Here the pavé’s pretty good. In some points, it’s a bit broken up, especially at the top of the Kwaremont. It’s going to be hard. The difference can be made there, just being at the front.”
In Milan-San Remo, no one considered a successful solo ride from the top of the Poggio possible, but Nibali attacked with 6.4 kilometres to race and held 10 seconds over the top of the climb. He carried it to victory and gave the dreamers ammunition for future Milan-San Remos and other Classics.
“I don’t know where I could attack Flanders. It’s going to be a new experience so I need to see how it goes. For sure, on the final part [of Kwaremont], if I have the legs and the form to try to make a move then… We just need to see as the race goes on if I have an opportunity, right now I don’ t know,” continued Nibali.
“To be sincere, after Milan-San Remo, my morale is high and that let’s you know that you are going well because after 300 kilomeres, I finished the race and I was truly well.
“In Flanders, I came here with respect for the race and for my rivals. They are true players. There are other objectives this year, but I’m going to try to do the best I can here. Can I win? I’ll be honest, I don’t know, but I’m going to try to have a good race.”