Vincenzo Nibali will be hoping to score for Italy the day the Azzurri face Belgium at the UEFA European Football Championships, but is stuck between cycling rock and anvil. The Trek-Segafredo rider is not strong enough to be a contender for this year’s Tour de France overall standings, but has yet to fall back enough in the overall standings to be allowed to get back on the road and escape.
The 36-year-old Sicilian looks perfect for Friday’s 249-kilometer marathon stage from Vierzon to La Creusot, the Tour’s longest in 21 years.
After completing the Giro d’Italia, Nibali has the endurance and recovery to face six and a half hours in the saddle. He has won all three Grand Tours, Milan-San Remo and Il Lombardia during his prestigious career and has the cycling skills for technical climbs and descents in the last 50 kilometers of the stage, which will surely rock the stage. expected escape.
Nibali’s problem is that he is still 19th overall in the general classification, just 2.55 hours behind the leader Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix).
He had never planned to aim for the general classification of the Tour after having raced the Giro d’Italia and with the Tokyo Olympics as a major objective. Yet his personal pride and the ever-constant dreams and expectations of the Italian tifosi still make it difficult for Nibali to give up chasing the yellow jersey, possibly leaving him in limbo until after the Alps.
“I don’t feel bad, actually I feel pretty good but I’m only three minutes from the overall standings so it’s not really enough to go on the attack,” said Nibali. Cycling news and The Gazzetta dello Sport after arriving in Chateauroux as the Tour went from flat roads in central France to more hilly and narrow country roads in the Morvan much further east and south.
“They will probably want to shut me down because if the break goes away, I could move up in the general classification and in theory even take the jersey. My presence would probably derail any attempt at a breakaway and I honestly wouldn’t want to upset the real pursuers and stage winners like Thomas De Gendt, Alejandro Valverde and my own team-mates Julien Bernard, Kenny Elissonde and Toms Skujinš.
Nibali also has to think about his sixth consecutive weekend of racing at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday, July 24, just six days after the Tour ended in Paris.
Nibali secured his place in the Italian five-rider squad alongside Giulio Ciccone, Alberto Bettiol, Gianni Moscon and Damiano Caruso with an aggressive run at the Italian National Championships and at the start of the Tour, where he finished leading the climb. towards the Landerneau the finish then again firmly placed at the top of Mûr-de-Bretagne on stage 2.
Nibali came out of the road race in Rio descending towards what looked at least like a silver medal, fracturing his collarbone. Greg van Avermaet won the gold medal, but Nibali is convinced that he can perhaps pull off a major roll of the dice in the difficult Mount Fuji circuit near the Japanese capital.
“I have to think about the Tokyo Olympics as I race step by step, I have to save something and try to reach a peak for the weekend after the end of the Tour. This season, there is always something to aim for after every major goal, ”he explained.
A victory for Italy over Belgium at the UEFA European Football Championships could bode well for Nibali as the Alps and then the more open race through nearby southern France.
“I have to defend Italian pride in the Tour and in our team during the match,” said Nibali. “I share a room with Ed Theuns who naturally cheers Belgium on. We have already started to tease each other about the game.
“I heard that there could be a common Belgian attack on stage 7. There aren’t many Italians on the Tour, so we can only hope that one of us enter the break and then place it at the back of the net. ”