In-form Australian Richie Porte may face a huge new threat at next month’s Giro d’Italia in the form of Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali.
Italian Nibali, the 2013 Giro winner, is reportedly being urged to ride the Giro in case his scandal-hit team Astana have their licence revoked before he can attempt his main goal for 2015, defending his Tour de France crown in July.
Nibali’s compatriot and Astana teammate Fabio Aru was due to ride the Giro as team leader but had to pull out of this week’s Giro de Trentino due to a stomach virus and is now a doubt.
Porte is among the early favourites for the year’s first grand tour in Italy, where he will lead the powerful Team Sky.
He showed his form in taking control of the Giro del Trentino on Wednesday after a solo victory on the second stage, backing up his impressive overall victories at Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya stage races.
Earlier in the day a report in Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport quoted Nibali as saying he may ride the Giro, particularly with the ongoing uncertainty about Astana’s World Tour licence over several doping cases and the possibility it could be revoked.
Gazzetta speculate that Nibali, 30, might opt to ride the Giro as a safety net, in case the licence is withdrawn between May’s Giro and July’s Tour.
“It’s true. Martino (Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli) is pushing for me to ride the Giro too. But at the moment it’s not in my plans,” said Nibali.
With former Tour de France champion Alberto Contador already deciding to go for a Giro-Tour double, the prospect of Nibali doing likewise would certainly excite Giro organisers.
A half-fit Aru would likely be no match for Porte or Contador but a Nibali firing on all cylinders would.
The currently silent and vacant sporting landscape has brought on much reflection. Many Australian competitions appear likely to go to ruin in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and concerns around what our sporting face will look like in a few months are genuine.
Five months have passed since Rohan Dennis abandoned the Tour de France in mysterious circumstances, climbing off the bike seemingly without cause during stage 12, the day before the race’s major time trial.