Nibali shows he’s back to his best at Giro d’Italia
Crowds in Turin called Vincenzo Nibali’s name time and time again as he returned to the Astana Qazaqstan team bus. The Italian tifosi were keen to create contact with the best Italian rider of a generation and somehow be part of his emotional day in the attack during stage 14 among the best contenders for the general classification of the Giro d’Italia.
With his retirement confirmed for the end of the season, a weight seems to have fallen from the Sicilian’s shoulders, freeing him from the emotions and pressure of carrying a nation’s hopes of success.
After being hit hard by COVID-19 and an infection in February, the first half of the Corsa Rosa found the form it had been missing for arguably three years. The end of Nibali’s career is approaching but he wants to leave in style and with at least one stage victory in the Giro d’Italia.
“I wanted to win the stage but I knew it would be difficult. I was marked from close range; it always seems like I’m seen as a threat and so hard to escape,” Nibali explained after pouring himself some cold water on your head beyond the finish. line to Turin, then in the shadow of the team bus along the banks of the Po.
“I am happy to feel so much affection and support from the roadside. I felt their support from the stages on my home roads in Sicily. I saw their banners, felt their warmth and heard their cheers. I would love to give them a stage win to thank them and say thank you.”
Nibali finished fourth on the day, 15 seconds behind stage winner Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and just behind Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) and new race leader Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers).
Everyone else was further away after the four proved they were the strongest atop Colle della Maddalena after being rattled by Carapaz’s solo attack. João Almeida, Mikel Landa and others had escaped after the heat, the steep slopes of Piedmont and the blistering pace of Bora-Hansgrohe tore the race apart.
“It was a really tough day, the pace of the Bora-Hansgrohe set was really high and it was so, so hot. So much so that it was difficult to eat and drink, with the heat and the technicality of the course, Nibali explained.
“I lack a bit of power to be able to attack and get away but I think that’s normal at my age. It’s not easy to be at this level and to be competitive. When you’re older, you have to work even harder to be up there.
“I tried to stay up there as long as possible. I felt good so I rode carefully on the climbs. When Carapaz left quickly, I didn’t even try to chase him, thinking that it was too far from the finish He is good, just like Hindley who is coming back from two difficult seasons, but no one is much better than the other in this race.
Nibali’s strong comeback helped him recover some of the time he lost on Stage 4 to climb Mount Etna. He was tempted to drop out of the overall standings, much like Yates did after his knee issues, so he could aim for stages and be let go on stages. However, Nibali is now eighth overall, 2:58 behind Carapaz. A top five overall is within reach.
With team leader Miguel Angel López retiring on Stage 4, Nibali is now Astana Qazaqstan’s only hope for the overall standings, along with American Joe Dombrowski – who took the day’s brief break – there to help him and maybe aim for mountain stage victories.
“The goal is to try to stay in the GC now but I won’t cry if I explode,” Nibali said.
“I lost time on Etna and it hurts but then I was good on the Blockhaus climb. Today I was looking for a stage victory but I was there for the GC too.”
Nibali turns 38 in November and will be retired by the time he blows out the candles unless he changes his mind and postpones his retirement.
His Grand Tour victories, his Il Lombardia and Milan-San Remo victories and his aggressive racing style give Nibali a prestigious place in the pantheon of Italian cycling. He has struggled at Trek-Segafredo in recent years, with a knee problem in 2021 worsening a sometimes strained relationship with the team.
“Like many other runners I’ve had good years and bad years in my career, we’re all human,” he said.
“I also had problems with knee pain last season but I kept quiet. Now I have new boots from Nimbli and it has helped solve the problems.
“Covid was a blow to my morale in the spring as it meant I had to work a lot harder to get back into the shape I needed for the Giro. Luckily I’m back and now I just hope to keep it that way. All the time.” road to Verona.”