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Nibali Unsure of Daunting Giro d’Italia

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Oct 6, 2015 – Former champion Vincenzo Nibali said he will expect an “intense” Giro d’Italia in 2016 but left doubts over his participation as organizers unveiled details of next year’s race in Milan on Monday.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

Starting in Apeldoorn on May 6, the Netherlands, the 99th edition of the three-week race has something for everyone with three individual time-trials, a handful of sprinters’ stages and enough mountain climbing to keep the suspense going until the penultimate stage before the race finishes in Turin on May 29.

Astana leader Nibali has not raced the Giro since his impressive triumph in the snow-hit edition in 2013, and although doubts remain over his future participation, the Italian gave an indication that next year’s race could tempt him back.

“It looks like an intense edition,” said Nibali, fresh from winning his maiden Tour of Lombardy, the final ‘monument’ of the one-day classics season, on Sunday. “I like it.”

With next year’s Tour de France as well as the Rio Olympics expected to be on Nibali’s agenda, the Italian added: “The thought of returning to the Giro is there, but it’s still too early to make a decision yet.” Held over 21 stages from May 6-29, next year’s race totals 3,383km and features six mountaintop or uphill finishes and four days in the thin air of the high mountains.

After the opening time trial of 9.8km in Apeldoorn and two further, flat stages in the Netherlands that favor the sprinters, the peloton transfers to the ‘sole’ of the Italian peninsula where hostilities resume on stage four at Catanzaro, considered a ‘medium-mountain’ stage. The peloton will then race up through the middle of Italy over a mix of flat and hilly terrain before reaching the Dolomites mountains in the north east of the country.

On the way, the contenders for the race’s famous pink jersey could fire their first salvoes on stage six, which features an uphill finish at Roccaraso after a final climb of 18.75km. Spain’s two-time and defending champion Alberto Contador, who will not defend his title next year in what is his final season before retirement, said: “It’s not a crucial stage but days like this can’t be ignored because they always give an indication of your rivals’ condition.”

Contador admitted: “It will be hard to watch on television next year.” Two days later, on stage eight, the race’s second time-trial, held over 40.4km in the Chianti region, could shake up the overall standings even further.

The first foray into the high mountains comes on stage 14 when the peloton races over 210km from Alpago to Corvara (Alta Badia) — one of three stages in the race given a five-star difficulty rating by organizers. It should provide an ample warm-up for the next day’s challenge.

The final time-trial, held over 10.8km, is uphill from Castelrotto to Alpe di Siusi and features a manageable but challenging gradient of 8.3 percent. A further three days will be spent in the high mountains, on stages 16, 19 and 20, taking in trips across the border to neighboring France, which hosts the summit finish of stage 19 in Risoul and the start of stage 20 in Guillestre. Described as a “more humane Giro” by organizers, Nibali offered his take on the kind of rider required to conquer the pink jersey.

“Whoever wins will have to be a complete rider because there are long time trails, a mountain time trial, high mountain stages and flat stages that can’t be undervalued. “Also, you have to be wary of dangers like strong winds that caused problems in the Tour de France second stage this year.”