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Rider of the week

Expelled from the Vuelta a España after being towed by Astana’s technical car on stage two and having to stay outside of races by the UCI rules which prohibit riders eliminated from a stage race from competing in any other event until that race is over, Vincenzo Nibali was under huge pressure since then, with criticism coming from all over the place. On top of that, the Italian was overshadowed by Fabio Aru’s triumph in the last Grand Tour of the season, which made many say that the young Sardinian is now going to be Astana’s main rider for the stage races, as he’s six years younger than the “Shark of Messina” and still has room to improve.

Ironically, his countryman’s victory has helped Nibali escape the media pressure in the past weeks and get outside the spotlight, as he began his preparation towards the World Championships in Richmond. Eager to prove he still has something to say in the season’s finale, the 30-year-old trained hard in Sicily and this helped him line-up in an incredible form for the series of one-day races which usually takes place in the second half of September, where he eventually bounced back from his Vuelta disappointment.

Second in Coppa Agostoni, first in Coppa Bernocchi, third in Memorial Marco Pantani and fifth in Gran Premio Industria e Commercio di Prato were the results Nibali scored in the span of just five days, each time the three-time Grand Tour winner attacking from far, digging deep and putting on an impressive display which not only has helped him get the confidence he was missing, but also recommends him now as the prime pick for the 109th edition of the Giro di Lombardia.

However, before going to the “Race of the Falling Leaves”, Vincenzo Nibali will race the World Championships; it’s true that the Richmond course isn’t as selective as he would have liked, but Italy – which comes at the start with a very strong team – can make the race hard, in order to prepare an attack of his leader, preferably before the last lap. If this happens and Nibali has the form showed thus far, there’s a fair chance the gold medal will go to the “Squadra Azzurra” for the first time in seven years.

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