Vincenzo Nibali has admitted that he is unsure of his prospects in Sunday’s UCI Road World Championships road race in Innsbruck, but his Bahrain-Merida teammate Domenico Pozzovivo is in line to play a more prominent role than previously anticipated in the Italian squad.
Nibali is the nominal leader of the Italian team alongside Gianni Moscon, who has won the Coppa Agostoni and Giro della Toscana since returning from a five-week suspension in mid-September. Since fracturing a vertebra in a crash on Alpe d’Huez at the Tour de France a little over two months ago, Nibali has battled to recover from his injury and build form for the Worlds.
The Sicilian completed the Vuelta a España earlier this month but expressed frustration at his condition as the race drew to a close. Nibali raced the Memorial Marco Pantani last weekend and joined the Italian elite men’s squad at a training camp in Torbole, Trentino on Monday. The azzurri undertook their last, long training ride of five and a half hours on Wednesday afternoon. Nibali, Moscon et al arrived in Innsbruck on Thursday.
“It’s been a difficult road to get as far as here, just like it was difficult coming out of the Vuelta. For me, to be able to ride with my teammates at this training camp was important,” Nibali said before leaving Torbole, according to Tuttobiciweb. “I don’t have any point of reference from the races between the Vuelta and today, so this Worlds will be like a shot in the dark. But I feel good and the atmosphere in the team is perfect.”
Pozzovivo will make his debut for the Italian senior team in Sunday’s road race, though he was a reserve in Florence in 2013. He previously lined out for the Italian under-23 squad at the Verona Worlds in 2004, placing 4th after being dropped by eventual winner Kanstantsin Siutsou on the final ascent of the Torricelle. Pozzovivo placed third at the Giro della Toscana, though he was outshone by the eventual winner Moscon on the climb of Monte Serra and again in the finishing sprint.
“I was with the national team in Florence too. I had come 6th at the Vuelta but the coach [Paolo Bettini – ed.] made different choices,” Pozzovivo told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Maybe it was because I was riding for a French team [AG2R La Mondiale – ed.] or because I hadn’t shown much in the Classics before then. For us climbers, there aren’t many suitable Worlds courses.”
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