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Holder Vincenzo Nibali ignoring Tour de France pressure

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali plays down talk of him being favourite for the Tour de France, saying anything can happen in the race.

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Vincenzo Nibali is paying no attention to the pressure he will face when he attempts to win the Tour de France for the second consecutive year.

Astana rider Nibali enjoyed his first Tour victory in 2014 as he became just the sixth in history to win all three Grand Tour races, following his successes at the Vuelta a Espana in 2010 and the Giro d'Italia in 2013.

Ahead of the 102nd edition of the Tour, which gets under way in Utrecht in July, Italian Nibali has played down the significance of being billed as favourite following his exploits last year.

"Being the favourite for the next Tour de France doesn"t mean I will win it," he told Perform.

"The pressure is there, my aim is to be in the best possible shape and try to win it. This is what I've always done and this is what I'm going to do forever.

"The Tour is a very difficult race: you never know what can happen along 21 days. It can give you happy days or difficult days. It's going to be a very hard task but I need to take on it with serenity and keeping a cool head."

While last year's race began in Leeds, England, the Dutch city of Utrecht is the venue for the 2015 Grand Depart.

Nibali does not feel there are too many other differences in the route, explaining: "If I think about the next Tour de France, many stages are difficult and with many uphill finishes.

"It is more or less is similar to last year"s course but after the first few stages it"s going to present some challenges.

"There's not a long time-trial, but this might not be significant because it's a Tour and it will be hard from the first stages and become even harder in the third week."

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