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June 5, 2015 – Vincenzo Nibali returns to competition for the first time on French soil, since he completed the final lap on the Champs-Elysées, for the Critérium du Dauphiné (7-14 June), which he will use as a launching pad towards the defense of his 2014 Tour de France title.
It has been the same story for the past 12 years (2002 precisely): the rider wearing the yellow jersey in Paris previously rode on the Critérium du Dauphiné, either in optimal condition like Bradley Wiggins (2012) and Chris Froome (2013), or in the preparation phase like Vincenzo Nibali who finished seventh last year.
Author of a last hurrah stand on the final day, during the memorable stage finishing at Courchevel, which saw a reversal of fortune in favor of Andrew Talansky and to the detriment of Alberto Contador, himself the executioner of Chris Froome the day before at Finhaut-Emosson, the Sicilian rider was also able to gauge what still separated him from his presumed Tour de France rivals.
“I remember the Dauphiné being a difficult race last year”, recalls Nibali. “But I also remembering it being good because it was the beginning of my racing resurrection and it let me understand where I still needed to improve ahead of the Tour de France that I went on to win.” What he most realized was his lack of explosiveness on the climbs.
He went on to work on fixing this immediately after behind a motorcycle ridden by his trainer Paolo Slongo during an intensive training session in the Dolomites at Passo San Pellegrino. The rest is history: Italian national championship, followed by his taking command of the Tour de France on day two at Sheffield.
Like last year, Vincenzo Nibali has yet to win so far this season. 16th on Tirreno-Adriatico, 13th on Liège-Bastogne-Liège, 10th on the Tour de Romandie, he returned Monday evening from a second long training session on the Teide Volcano in Tenerife (Spain), where most of the current top riders work on their climbing.
“My ramping up programme for the Tour de France is going well, just like I want it to”, Nibali says. “I can’t say that I will be 100% fit on the Dauphiné, but I am satisfied with my current form. I am riding this race with one simple ambition: give it all I’ve got.”
The alpine event will equally offer him the opportunity to get a good idea about stage 17 of the Tour de France, Digne-les-Bains-Pra Loup (161km), because the exact same route will be ridden on Thursday June 11 during stage five of the Dauphiné. “A few of my team mates and I already know the Dutch, Belgian and northern French stages”, he continues. “On the Dauphiné there will be a team time trial that will allow us to get in sync. We will fight flat out because we are a strong and well organized team.”
On the Dauphiné, Nibali will be able to rely on the support of Lars Boom, Lieuwe Westra, Andriy Grivko, Dimitri Gruzdev, Michele Scarponi, Rein Taaramäe and Alessandro Vanotti, which with the exception of the Dane Jakob Fuglsang, could very well be the team that Astana lines-up for the start of the Tour de France on July 4 at Utrecht.