Vincenzo Nibali is the number one home favourite for the start of the Giro d’Italia tomorrow (Saturday, May 7) in Turin. The Sicilian, however, must take on cycling’s top Grand Tour rider, Spaniard Alberto Contador, to win the title.

“He’s always shown to have a great ability to deal with his rivals, we saw that last year at the Tour de France. It’s the same here at the Giro. His team is built around him and he’s much more prepared than when he won the Giro in 2008,” said Nibali today in a press conference.

“How will I beat him? It’s difficult, he’s strong in the time trials and strong in the mountains. I have to find the right moment to invent something. There will be chances on the road in the three weeks of racing.”

Nibali proved to be Italy’s emerging and most talented stage racer last year. He helped Liquigas team-mate Ivan Basso win the Giro d’Italia, won a stage and finished third overall. He then took advantage of his opportunity to lead the team at the Vuelta a España. He won the race, his first Grand Tour victory.

The team decided over the winter to let Ivan Basso solely focus on the Tour de France and give the role of Giro leadership to Nibali. However, he faces Contador, who has won five Grand Tours (Tour in 2007, 2008 and 2010; 2008 Giro and Vuelta).

Nibali will take his chances on the road, but the battle may also extend to the courtroom. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will rule on Contador’s doping case in June. He tested positive for Clenbuterol at the Tour last year, but was acquitted by the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC). The International Cycling Union (UCI) appealed Spain’s decision to the CAS.

Contador risks losing any win, including the Giro d’Italia, since last year’s Tour if CAS rules against him. Nibali may finish second this month, but win it next month if CAS finds Contador guilty.

“I’ve thought about that, I think it’s more his problem than ours. All I can do is race,” said Nibali.

“Should he be racing? Maybe the justice system has taken too long. That’s how it is, though, they [CAS] has to decide. It’s not my problem to worry about, the UCI and CAS need to deal with it.”

Liquigas, unlike Contador’s Saxo Bank team, decided to pull one of its riders involved in a doping investigation. Due to the Mantova investigation, Mauro Da Dalto stayed home. Team Manager Roberto Amadio said that it was a decision out of respect for his team sponsors and that he wanted to avoid any problems during the race.

Alan Marangoni replaced Da Dalto and will help Nibali beat Contador on the road. Nibali faced Contador twice before in Grand Tours – 2008 Giro and 2009 Tour. Contador won both, Nibali finished 11th and seventh, respectively.

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