A bunch sprint has long been predicted for Saturday’s race, and the five-man Italian team duly includes fast men Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox), but fresh from his third place finish at the Tour de France, Nibali is determined to play his own card first.
“It’s not a given that it will end in a sprint,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’ve come out of the Tour in great condition and I’m aiming to do a great race. I’m not giving up on my personal ambitions before we start, but if instead the race stays together until the final lap, then I’ll put myself at the disposal of the quickest azzurri. Let’s say that at that point, I’d give what I hope to receive at the Worlds in Valkenburg on a much more selective course.”
While Mark Cavendish (Sky) is the favourite to take Olympic gold, particularly given the strength of the British team at his disposal, Nibali reckons that a man with no teammates in the race could upset the odds on the Mall on Saturday afternoon. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) is the only Slovak in the race, but after winning three stages and the green jersey at the Tour, he arrives in London on something of a high.
“If there’s a sprint, Cavendish will certainly be the number one favourite but Sagan could cause him a lot of problems,” Nibali said. “In any case, I’m not so convinced that it will finish in a sprint. Traditional logic goes out the window at the Olympics. The peloton isn’t as congested and the national teams have a maximum of five riders in the race.”
Once the Olympic Games come to an end, Nibali is widely expected to formally announce that he has signed with Astana for the 2013 season. “There are still some details missing but that should be the case,” he said.
After finishing on the podium of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in recent seasons, Nibali will face something of a dilemma when it comes to deciding on his race programme for 2013. He will have a clearer idea of his plans when the race routes are unveiled in September and October.
“I’ll wait until I know the routes and then I’ll make the decision with the team,” he said. “The Giro d’Italia is the race that launched me and I’d gladly go back there. Certainly, the podium wouldn’t be enough for me there next year. I’ve already finished on the second and third step of the podium, so I would have to aim for the highest step.”