Vincenzo Nibali chose an all-Italian path for the packed second part of this 2020 season, heading towards his main goal of the Giro d’Italia in October. But before the potential third Maglia Rosa of his career, Trek-Segafredo’s Sicilian star could add another precious triple jersey to his rich collection, the blue of Tirreno-Adriatico, which he already wore in 2012 and 2013.
Nibali will face a tough list of competitors including the only other currently-active rider to have won all three Grand Tours, Chris Froome; plus 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, recent Il Lombardia winner Jakob Fuglsang, 2018 Vuelta a España winner Simon Yates, and the young Aleksandr Vlasov who won Giro dell’Emilia in August. Nairo Quintana, who, like Vincenzo has tasted double Tirreno-Adriatico success (2015 and 2017), won’t be at the start since he is competing in the Tour de France.
What are your feelings a month after the Strade Bianche and how are you experiencing this unusual racing programme, coloured by the summer heat?
Vincenzo Nibali: It was an intense month with important races, primarily due to the heat never previously experienced in competitions such as Strade Bianche, Milano-Sanremo or Il Lombardia. Thinking about the situation last spring, it is still good that we were able to restart. The approach has changed radically, having to deal with the most important races in just three months. It was a tough start, and I suffered a bit from the lack of race days to be 100% competitive for the win. My big goal of the season is the Giro d'Italia, in October. I have built my preparation around that race, above all.
Your first Tirreno-Adriatico was in 2007 when you recorded a good 17th final place at just 23 years of age. What do you remember about that edition?
V.N.: It is a distant memory, alas. I remember the beauty of racing in my homeland, Italy, and the warmth of the public. It was one of the first times I was able to challenge myself with the best riders in world cycling.
Tirreno-Adriatico has subsequently become a fixed appointment in the season for you. How important is it in 2020 to test your condition as a final run-through for the Giro d'Italia?
V.N.: For me it has always been a fundamental step before the Giro d'Italia. It’s a demanding test bed because of the climate, the routes and the competitors. This year, given the absence of other stage races, it will be fundamental for my preparation for the Giro.
Will you aim for your third victory or will you keep working for the Giro?
V.N.: It would be risky to make predictions this year. There are too many unknowns that have never been faced so far and, above all, I have too few days of racing in the legs, and, at the same time I have done an important workload in the training camp. It will be a step forward approaching the Giro but also an opportunity to do well. We always start aiming for the biggest goal. Then, day by day, I will understand how far I can go.
How much motivation will you get from the Giro d'Italia starting in Sicily – with its important stages like the time trial and the finish on Mt Etna that you know very well?
V.N.: It is clearly a special location for me. I have a very strong bond with my land. Whenever the Giro passed through Sicily I have felt a very strong emotion; I felt proud. But I also need to control my emotions because the start is quite tough. It’s true that the Giro is 21 stages and that the decisive part is the third week, but with such a demanding departure it’s necessary to have good condition right away. In the time trial I will defend myself and then we will face the Etna. It’s true, I know the climb very well and I know how much it can hurt, if you are not having a good day.
How did you cope with lockdown and what positive things will you bring with you from those months?
V.N: They have been complicated months in which everyone had to deal with a whole new everyday life. As an athlete, it was a period that I never imagined I would live: a spring without racing and training just to keep in shape, I had never experienced anything like that. As a man, it was the opportunity to live my family life with greater intensity. Our profession requires us to stay away from home often, so having the chance to spend time with my wife and daughter was invaluable. I will carry with me the awareness of how life can suddenly change, from one moment to the next.
The 2020 edition of La corsa dei due mari, (The Race of the Two Seas), will add one stage to the traditional route for a total of eight days, connecting the Tyrrhenian coast, starting from Lido di Camaiore in Tuscany, to the Adriatic shores in San Benedetto del Tronto, in Marche, from 7 to 14 September.