Nibali’s anticipated departure from Astana at end of 2016 looking a lot less likely

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After the Vuelta a España many predicted he would leave the Astana team but now, according to Vincenzo Nibali, there is a good chance he might renew after the 2016 season.

The Italian won the Tour de France in 2014 but had a much quieter season this year, netting fourth in the Tour and then being disqualified from the Vuelta for towing by his team car.

He returned to take a fine win in Il Lombardia, but an apparent preference for Fabio Aru as the team’s 2016 Tour de France leader plus Nibali’s disgruntlement over a lack of support in the Vuelta suggested he would leave once his contract was done.

It appears this is no longer looking as certain.

“I was already twice proposed a [contract] renewal,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “The first two days after the Vuelta, and I find this a gesture of great respect, the other recently.

“There is interest on their part, now it’s up to me to choose.”

He said that deciding to stay with the team will depend on certain factors. “It is no longer an economic issue, but one of choices: which races I will do, the program, whom I will be supported by. I don’t want to be angry at races, but happy. The chances of renewing with Astana are good.”

As well as his thoughts on his career future, Nibali also gave an insight into his likely programme for 2016. He will begin in the Tour de San Luis, do a training camp at altitude at Mount Teide, ride the Tour of Oman and then return to Europe for Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo.

Another high-altitude training camp will follow, then the Giro del Trentino, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro d’Italia.

Whether or not he will do the Tour de France remains a topic of discussion. Aru is thought likely to have the team’s backing to try for the win, but Nibali sees value in riding the race in order to prepare for the Olympic Games.

However he and team coach Paolo Slongo are looking at another plan which could get him into optimal form without riding in France. “How can I be ready for the Olympics without the Tour? Austria and Poland does not have the same rhythm, but may be an alternative: two weeks of racing divided by a single day.”

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