Vuelta: Nibali ready for first Grand Tour win
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Vuelta: Nibali ready for first Grand Tour win

by Samuel Morrison at 12:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
Italy's Nibali races confidently towards Vuelta a España and end of season

Italian Vincenzo Nibali will become this year's surprise Grand Tour winner if all goes according to plan at the Vuelta a España. The three-week race starts Saturday in Sevilla and, judging by recent results, Nibali is one of the favourites to win.

Nibali, 25, won Italy's tough one-day classic, the Trofeo Melinda, yesterday in Fondo, Italy. He won Melinda showing similar strengthens that earned him third overall and a stage win at the Giro d'Italia, and the Tour of Slovenia overall. The results confirmed his slow change, his development over previous two seasons: 18th at the 2008 Tour de France and seventh last year.

"The change came in 2009, my seventh place at the Tour de France last year finally made me understand that I am at the level of the strongest," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It gave me security, and, in respect to the past, I make fewer mistakes. The results are confirming this, but there is still room for improvements. Of course, I am still only 25 years old."

Team Liquigas-Doimo left him out of the Tour de France this year after it asked him to race the Giro d'Italia in May to support Ivan Basso. The Italian team needed a strong helper to replace Franco Pellizotti, who the UCI caught doping with its biological passport one week prior to the Giro d'Italia.

In addition to his third overall, the stage win to Asolo and helping Basso, he also helped the team win the time trial and wore the leader's pink jersey for three days. As with the Tour de France over the last two years, he will co-captain the Vuelta team with Czech Roman Kreuziger, only this time, based on his progression, he is considered an overall favourite.

"I want to nurse my classification goal [at the Vuelta]. If I am not able to do well in the classification then I will aim for a stage win. I do not like having pressure. I will take it on without much thought, as with the Giro," added Nibali.

"In Spain, it will be sort of a new situation for me racing as a leader. It will be a little improvisation for me as I do not know the course that well... Who says that's not a good thing?"

The Vuelta a España will be the last time for Kreuziger to race as a leader for Liquigas. Last week, he signed a two-year deal with team Astana, where he will replace out-going Alberto Contador. Nibali began his first professional year with Liquigas in 2006 and in May, agreed to a two-year extension that takes him through 2012.

He and Kreuziger will receive support at the Vuelta from Daniele Bennati, Mauro Finetto, Jacopo Guarnieri, Robert Kiserlovski, Fabio Sabatini, Ivan Santaromita and Frederik Willems. His top rivals are two-time winner Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and the Schleck brothers, Fränk and Andy (Saxo Bank).


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