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Astana captain ready to spearhead Italy in Rio, praises Froome for Tour victory.

Photo: Sirotti






29.07.2016 @ 07:25 Posted by Jesper Ralbjerg

Vincenzo Nibali will be flying to Rio for the Olympic Games with the rest of the Italian team on Friday. The Sicilian is the leader of the five-rider men’s road race team that will compete for one of the first medals of the 2016 Games on Sunday August 6. Additionally, Nibali will also ride the time trial on August 10.


In Rio, Nibali will be joined by Astana teammates Fabio Aru and Diego Rosa, and BMC riders Alessandro De Marchi and Damiano Caruso. 


The testing and undulating 237.5km road race route is expected to produce a royal battle between the best Grand tour climbers and strongest hilly Classics riders. The route includes a flat loop out of Rio, four laps of a two-hill circuit and then three laps of the Vista Chinesa 25km circuit that includes an 8.9km climb at an average of 6.2%. The start and finish overlooks the famous Copacabana beach.


At the beginning of 2016, Nibali selected the Giro d’Italia and the hilly Rio road race as his main objectives for the season, electing to sacrifice his hopes of overall success in the Tour de France in the hope of a medal.


But even though he did not make the Tour a priority this year, Nibali still had to face criticism for what was perceived to be a lacklustre performance in the French grand tour. Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport on the eve of the Italian team’s departure for South America, Nibali stated that he is still angry and looking to make a point after being criticised for his performances at the Tour de France.


“I’m not a robot. Everybody always expects a lot from me, I get that but I never said I was going for the classification. That’s why I think I was far too heavily criticised when I was dropped on the first mountain stage in the Massif Central,” Nibali said, hitting back. I want to point that I had a great first part of the season. I won in Oman in February, I rode strongly in March at Tirreno-Adriatico and I won the Giro d’Italia. I have always been very focused and I only had one day off in the winter so that I’d be on form for 2016. I always try my best and I tried hard to win a stage but you have to know how to listen to your body and measure your effort, especially considering the goals ahead. When my legs told me I wouldn’t be a GC contender, I worked for the good of the team, which is the right thing to do.”


Praise for Froome and Team Sky

Nibali won the Tour de France in 2014 and is expected to target the race in 2017 as team leader of the new Bahrain-Merida team. This year, like the rest of the subdued and non-combative peloton, he could only watch in awe as Chris Froome and Team Sky again rode the Tour de France into submission but he showed class in praising the British squad for their success.


“I’m happy with how I performed; I’m not envious of Team Sky’s success or even Froome’s victory. I will never be like them but that is okay. They always peak for the Tour and so it is not easy to beat such a strong and important team, who invest a lot in everything they do. There’s nothing I can say against their victory, they deserved it.”


Regarding his own chances of Olympic glory, Nibali was more optimistic while acknowledging that Rio will be his last shot at an Olympic medal.


“It won’t be easy to win but with the tough route and the national team we have, we can do well,” he suggested. Considering my age, it is probably my last ever Olympics and I like the special atmosphere of the Olympics even if we will not be there that long. It is fascinating to eat in the Olympic village and make friends with athletes from other sports and other countries. The whole Italian team is motivated for Rio. We have collected a few placings out of the medal recently but we have a good chance this time. Let's hope we don’t get overly criticised if we don’t win a medal.”



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