By Julien Pretot
BOLOGNA, Italy (Reuters) – Vincenzo Nibali is ready to forget about his disappointing outings at last year’s Tour de France and Vuelta races as he gets ready to hit peak form at the Giro d’Italia.
The 34-year-old, one of only two active riders to have won the three grand tours – the Tour, the Vuelta and the Giro – has not won a race since he prevailed in the Milan-Sanremo classic 14 months ago.
“I started my preparations later this year because I will be riding another grand tour (the Vuelta) this season,” the Sicilian told a news conference on Thursday, two days before the Giro starts with an individual time trial in Bologna.
“I come here in a very good condition, my goal is to win it.”
The Bahrain-Merida rider, who crashed out of the Tour de France last year, has opted to skip the world’s premier cycling race this year so that he can concentrate his energies on the two other grand tour events.
The Italian, whose flamboyant style has allowed him to shine on both stage races and classics, won the Giro in 2013 and 2016.
Although Britons Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, who between them have won the last four Tour de France titles, are sitting out the race, Nibali still faces stern competition.
“My main rivals will be Tom Dumoulin and Primoz Roglic, but also Simon Yates,” said Nibali, whose tour of the Alps performances suggested he could be peaking just in time for the Giro.
Dumoulin, the 2017 Giro champion, has struggled this season but Nibali did not think that will have any bearing once the riders set off in Bologna on Saturday.
“As it happened before I arrive here without any results but I have been training for this Giro, the same goes for Dumoulin, who is my main rival,” said Nibali, who had an under-par Vuelta campaign in 2018.
“I think the work I’ve done is the right work.”
Pundits have suggested that Nibali’s team is not as strong as those of his rivals, but the Bahrain-Merida rider will not let such perceptions derail him as he prepares to ride the Giro with his young brother Antonio for the first time.
“I think that with Damiano Caruso and Domenico Pozzovivo, two top-10 finishers on the Giro, we are well armed, but if others are stronger, they will work harder to control the race and we can take advantage of this,” he said with a smile.
Pozzovivo finished fifth overall in the Giro in 2014 and 2018, while fellow Italian Caruso ended eighth in 2015.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; editing by Pritha Sarkar)