Bahrain-Merida opt for balanced team to support Nibali’s Tour de France bid

Bahrain-Merida have selected a mix of climbers and rouleurs to support Vincenzo Nibali as the Italian targets a second Tour de France victory. The Sicilian opted to skip the Giro d’Italia and focus fully on the Tour de France in 2018, hoping to repeat his 2014 victory.

Bahrain-Merida’s eight rider squad includes Domenico Pozzovivo, Gorka Izagirre, Ion Izagirre, Franco Pellizotti, Heinrich Haussler, Sonny Colbrelli and Kristijan Koren to back Nibali, selecting climbers and rouleurs in the hope of limiting their losses in the stage 3 team time trial and the technically difficult stages in the first half of the race.

The Izagirre brothers and Pozzovivo will play a vital role in the mountains, with Pozzovivo coming from a fifth place overall at the Giro d’Italia. Haussler, Colbrelli and Koren will protect Nibali on the cobbled stage and flat roads, with Colbrelli likely to target the sprint finishes. Pellizotti turned 40 in January but is Nibali’s trusted right-hand man.

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Nibali won Milan-San Remo in March but was off the pace at the Criterium du Dauphine. He has recently spent time at altitude in the Dolomites working on his climbing and race speed with trusted coach Paolo Slongo, believing he will be at his best for the decisive Tour de France stages.

Nibali will ride the Italian national road race championships on Saturday as a final test of his form before travelling to France. He has won the Italian title three times, the first coming just a few days before his successful 2014 Tour de France.

“I’m very happy to go back to the Tour. I liked the route right from the start and the charm of the Grand Boucle is indisputable. I’m going to France with a lot of serenity and with the knowledge that I have done everything possible to achieve the best result,”  said Nibali when the Bahrain-Merida team was confirmed.

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