The Italian will race Belgium’s most famous race with an eye on returning to win in the future and preparing for the Tour de France‘s cobble stage later in the summer.
Complicating matters, he must get to Bilbao that evening to start the Vuelta a País Vasco the next day. The experience will be entirely new for the 33-year-old, 13 seasons a professional.
“I know nothing about Flanders, just what I’ve seen on TV!” Nibali told Cycling Weekly.
“I’ve never done it, I want to try it and do it. It’ll be a great experience like the year Bradley Wiggins took a stab at Paris-Roubaix. He fell in love and wanted to win it afterwards.”
The other two Monuments, Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, differ drastically with their cobbles and favour the more powerful riders over the lightweight climbers.
“I’m not doing Roubaix! That’s for sure, I’ve already did my bit in the 2014 in the worst possible conditions,” said Nibali, who won the 2014 Tour de France thanks in part to the Roubaix stage.
“It’s a big thing, completely new. I don’t know the route, I don’t know the race, I don’t know how it is. It’s my idea to race, I wanted to do it to see if I can return in the future and take a serious swipe at it and anyway, it’s a great way to add to my confidence for the Tour’s pavé stages in 2018.”
Nibali turned professional in 2005 with Fassa Bortolo and switched to Liquigas/Cannondale the following season. After Team Astana, he now leads Bahrain-Merida. Over those years, he won the Giro d’Italia twice, the Vuelta a España and the Tour.
“I remember what Giancarlo Ferretti told me when I first turned professional with Fassa Bortolo. The first two times you race an event, maximum three, you got to see how it is, and then the fourth time, you go to win. That’s what Ferretti said,” continued Nibali.
“I’m just going to see what I’m capable of, I’m no Michal Kwiatkowski. You first need to know all the corners and climbs. And I’ve never even taken the start line in the other Flemish races, Harelbeke, et cetera.
“You come up against the one-day specialists, who build their spring for just that race, give it all for that race. Flanders is more suited to riders like me, climbers, but they are hard short climbs where you need power like Sagan, Gilbert and Van Avermaet.”
Nibali expressed worry for the flight out, too, with very few options. CW confirmed with him and the schedules, seats are available on flights from Brussels to Bilbao on Sunday evening.
“The only thing is that we have to schedule it well because País Vasco is the day after,” Nibali added.
“It’s a demanding race, it’s gong to take some energy away from me for País Vasco, but it’s a good block of work and also serves well for the Ardennes Classics.”