Vincenzo Nibali enters a new phase of his life this year, both as a married man and an outright team leader at new squad Astana.
“The difference is that I’m treated well, as a leader in Astana,” the Italian told Cycling Weekly. “The team is up there with the best.”
Last year racing for Liquigas-Cannondale, Nibali posed the biggest threat to Bradley Wiggins at Tour de France. He was the most threatening rival in the final mountain stages, but was unable to match Sky’s Wiggins and Chris Froome in the time trials. He finished third behind Wiggins at 6-19 minutes and just 2-58 behind Froome in second.
He was Italy’s first podium finisher since Ivan Basso in 2005. To continue the celebrations, he signed a contract to be Astana’s Grand Tour leader and married Rachele.
“Married life is going well, everything feels normal,” Nibali explained. “We didn’t live together before, now we do. When we are both home, it feels great.”
He must have convinced Rachele convinced of her decision when he sang to her below her balcony the night before their wedding.
“Yeah, it’s true!” Nibali said. “That’s the tradition in her area [Fiuggi]. I did it for traditions-sake, for friends… It was fun.”
With the parties, he starts his season a little behind. He raced in the Tour de San Luis in Argentina and began in Oman yesterday. Astana has him aiming for the Giro d’Italia this year, like Wiggins, instead of the Tour.
At the hotel in Muscat, he met some of his new team-mates. They are racing for the first time together. The bonds they form will help Nibali down the road in the Giro.
“I’ve trained with the guys I know, like Paolo Tiralongo and Alessandro Vanotti, but here I’m with the new guys and we are trying to find our unity,” Nibali continued.
Wiggins and his other Giro rivals prepared nearby as he prepared for the start in Fanja in Bidbid.
“I’m also getting a reference point on how they are going,” Nibali said. “Alberto Contador is not doing the Giro, but still you see how he’s going, he already won in San Luis.
“I’m not sure how I’m going, I’m trying to improve and improve towards the Giro. However, if I pull off a win here, we’d all be happy.”
He nearly pulled off a win today. He attacked, in the final two kilometres of stage two and placed fourth behind stage winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Tour of Oman 2013: Preview and coverage