Cautious, but not too much. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) were the stars of the even of the 43rd Tour of the Alps in Kufstein, on Sunday April 21st.
The two giants of Grand Tours, with 10 victories between the two, didn’t do bold proclaims ahead of five intensive days on the Euregio roads, as they are both looking forward to test their legs in the view of the respective goals, but certainly didn’t hide from their role as favorites.
“This race has always been important for me, ever since it was called Giro del Trentino,” Nibali told, “and for me its role is always the same: a key dress rehearsal ahead of the Giro d’Italia.”
“The Tour of the Alps stages are short, but really tough,” Froome confirmed, “and will give key feedback on what I still need to get to the top. Right now, it’s crucial for me to put kilometers in the legs, and progress in preparation for the Tour of the Alps. But sure, both Vincenzo and I are starting to win it.”
Team Sky and Froome have also an additional motivation: “It will be my final race in a Team Sky jersey, and even just telling it sounds odd. Sky has been an amazing sponsor for ten years, and a certainty for all of us. It would be great to say goodbye on a high note.”
From its side, Bahrain-Merida looks forward to important indications, from Nibali and beyond: “I will be supported by a young team, not the most experienced one but with some valuable elements. The Giro team isn’t done yet, so they still have a chance to earn a spot in the lineup, including a progressing rider like Pernstiner, who is racing at home here.”
While being still a long way to this season’s goal, Froome has several reasons that brought him back to the Euregio roads: “Last year I chose this race to prepare the Giro, and it went very well. I have this feeling this time as well, and I hope to confirm them in the race. Apart from that, this setting is nothing short of awesome: those are amazing lands, almost unbelievable. There’s no better place to ride a bike.”
From tomorrow, Monday, things get serious. Froome and Nibali both know they will find hard rivals on their way, with a name on top of their mind: Spaniard Pello Bilbao, the Astana leader and last year’s winner in Folgaria. He could be the man to upset the clash of giants.
Tomorrow the Tour of the Alps gets underway with a 144 km stage with start and finish in Kufstein. It will be a stage with no long climbs, but a lumpy course will make it taxing on the riders’ legs. The stage’s outcome will be really uncertain, and that’s a guarantee of a great show as per Tour of the Alps’ habitude.
Cycling fans will be able to follow stage 1 Live from 14.00 CET on Eurosport, Rai Sport and numerous other TV and Web broadcasters, as well as on Facebook on PMG Sport’s official page.