Vincenzo Nibali still wants to make his mark in the 2012 Tour de France
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Vincenzo Nibali still wants to make his mark in the 2012 Tour de France

by Ben Atkins at 1:48 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Italian happy with place on the podium but aims for more in the final week

vincenzo nibaliVincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) made the Tour de France the big target of his 2012 season and, so far, things are going to plan. The ‘Shark’ from Messina, Sicily, currently sits in third place, behind Team Sky duo Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, but he will be aiming to move at least one place upwards as the race hits the Pyrénées this week. The 27-year-old - who won the 2010 Vuelta a España - trails Wiggins by 2’23”, but Froome by just 18 seconds.

“So far it's been a great Tour but I don’t want to be satisfied with this,” Nibali told Liquigas-Cannondale’s rest-day press conference. “The third place that I occupy now is certainly important, but if there’s a chance to do something better, I intend to seize it. There is still enough terrain to make my mark, to attack and make up some time.”

With Nibali concentrating on the Tour this season, teammate Ivan Basso aimed at taking his third Giro d’Italia; the 34-year-old could only manage fifth in his home tour, but is riding in France in support of Nibali, where his experience has been invaluable to the younger rider.

“The next two stages are the decisive ones in this sense,” Nibali explained. I don’t know them very well but Basso has been an excellent leader.”

As one of the most fearless descenders in the peloton Nibali does not just look to attack as he climbs up the mountains, but often on the way down again. He has attacked on several descents in the race so far, but feels that the long drop from the Col du Peyresourde to the finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon tomorrow may not be entirely suitable.

“The downhill finish tomorrow is intriguing,” he said. “But I understand it is not too technical and I do not know how much difference it can make. Thursday though [between Bagnères-de-Luchon and Peyragudes - ed], lends itself to attacks.”

So far in the race nobody has been able to overcome the dominance of Team Sky, with Wiggins and Froome standing out as the strongest riders in the race. Nibali doesn’t discount working with some of his other rivals however, to try to loosen the British team’s firm grip on the race.

“Sky and its top men Wiggins and Froome have confirmed, day after day, to be masters of the race, but you can’t predict what situations could occur,” he said. “Alliances may arise that are difficult to control. I expect [Lotto-Belisol’s Jurgen] Van den Broeck to still fight, as well as [BMC Racing’s defending champion Cadel] Evans and others.

“Together we can try to undermine their dominance,” he continued, “and then we will be able to understand the roles at casa Sky. Wiggins offers more guarantees and has the time trial on his side, but he prefers a consistent pace and could suffer with changes in rhythm on the climbs; Froome is a better climber, what would he do if we could drop Wiggins?”

Even if he can take time from Wiggins and Froome in the Pyrénées, Nibali’s biggest problem will be the time that he will still face the 52km time trial between Bonneval and Chartres. Of his 2’23” deficit to the yellow jersey, the Italian conceded 11 seconds in the prologue, but 2’07” in the long time trial between Arc-et-Senans and Besançon; only five seconds have been lost to the Sky riders on the road, at the finish on La Planche des Belles Filles on stage seven. Since then though, he has been climbing stronger than Wiggins at least, and this is where he needs to attack.

Nibali may be able to take time from the two Britons - he may even be able to take the yellow jersey - but he would have to take a lot back to resist them both in the time trial. He also knows that he faces a battle to hold on to his place on the podium with both Evans and Van Den Broeck fighting to knock him off.

"My ambitions today, have not changed,” Nibali said. “However, I’m realistic and, although I will try to win the yellow jersey it would take an historic feat.

“In the coming days I'll look who is ahead of me but also who is behind me,” he continued. “My [56 second] advantage over Evans is not reassuring, but I think the last time trial will be more about remaining strength than skill.

"I’m tranquillo," he concluded. "I feel good and I’m motivated to do well; all the conditions are there for ending this Tour with a great result."


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