As a rider who has made the Tour his number one priority this year, Vincenzo Nibali’s preparation has been far from ideal.

While the Italian’s expected two biggest rivals for the yellow jersey, defending champion Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, have enjoyed strong seasons going into the race, the 29-year-old’s year started poorly and he has struggled to find his best form since.

The Astana rider disappointed at the Tour of Oman, could only finish fifth at the Tour de Romandie and was dropped on more than one occasion in the mountains in this month’s Criterium du Dauphine, the traditional pre-Tour warm-up, as he ultimately ended the race in seventh.

But Nibali’s pedigree in the ‘Grand Tours’ illustrates why he is expected to be among the main GC contenders again. On the last seven occasions he has ridden either the Vuelta a Espana, Giro d’Italia or the Tour de France since 2010, Nibali has only being off the podium once, triumphing in Spain in 2010 and Italy last year.

The class is undoubtedly there but whether Nibali can return to his best remains to be seen. However, victory in the Italian Road Race Championship over the weekend suggests it may be.