Giro d’Italia: Vincenzo Nibali before the end of his career

EA farewell announcement can release forces. Since Vincenzo Nibali in his home town of Messina after the 5th stage of the Giro d’Italia announced the final stroke of his professional career at the end of the season, the fin kick of the professional cyclist known as the “Shark” has become stronger again. He demonstrated this very impressively on Saturday on the difficult 14th stage in the Piedmont hills around Turin. The 37-year-old was not surprised by the mammoth attack by the Bavarian racing team Bora hansgrohe.

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He stayed up front as five of Bora’s men blew up the peloton with a collective attack. And in the last kilometers he was one of the most active riders even at the front. “I wanted to win the day. Unfortunately this didn’t work. It was a very difficult day, also because of the Bora attack. But I made a mark,” he said, satisfied at the end.

Setting an example provided real adrenaline rushes for the audience along the route. The street circuit around the historic capital of Italy was densely lined with people. Again and again there was cheering when Nibali accelerated on the large monitors or the track announcer yelled “Attack Nibali” into the microphone in a cracking voice. An entire country is currently celebrating the southern Italian, with cheers and cheers, banners and chalk slogans on the asphalt. He’s a big star in Italy, the last big cycling hero – and that’s what makes saying goodbye so emotional.

No doping affair

A successor of similar quality is not in sight in Italian cycling. “With Nibali, a whole era comes to an end. A comparable talent is currently not recognizable. He is a different type of driver than Marco Pantani. But both stand out in their own way,” said Stefano Allocchio, once a four-time stage winner at the Giro and route planner for the tour for many years, to the FAZ

Unlike Pantani, the other Radhero of modern times in Italy, and unlike his team boss Alexander Vinokurow, Nibali also managed to never have been involved in a doping affair in his long career. For someone who started in the old days of cycling, when there was a lot of doping and even ambitious investigators could find a lot of evidence, this is quite an achievement.

As Nibali neared the end of his career, Sicily, and in particular Nibali’s closer home region, was frequently visited by the Giro. That was in 2017, 2018, 2020 and now this year. More honor for an individual is hardly possible. Although Nibali never won on Etna in all these years, in 2018 he skipped the Giro altogether. However, he used this year’s stop in his hometown of Messina as a forum to say goodbye. That had style.

Former companions appeared. And a time frame is also set. That means that with each passing day, the chances of seeing this stylist live on the bike diminish. That mobilizes the fans. And it elevates Nibali’s last sporting appearances to numbered originals in a collection.

Nibali is also a sought-after discussion partner for the press.

Nibali is also a sought-after discussion partner for the press.

Image: EPA

Not every original is a masterpiece. At many stages, the professional who returned to Astana hides in the field. But since the announcement of Messina, the form of this former Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana winner has been steadily improving. If he lost more than two minutes to the competition on the local mountain Etna – one day before the farewell notification from Messina – he held up very bravely in the 9th stage to Blockhaus, only 34 seconds behind the day’s winner Jai Hindley, the new star by Bora hansgrohe.

And on Saturday he wasn’t just there with the best. He was also a protagonist himself. “I would like so much to give a gift to the people who have cheered me on so much over the last few days, who show so clearly that they feel close to me,” said Nibali. As gifts he has picture book attacks on the racing bike, heroic stage victories, maybe even one or the other day in pink in mind.

Limited leeway

“But it’s not easy here. The level is very high. And I fell back a bit in the classification due to the loss of time on Mount Etna – but not far enough to be left out by the classification drivers,” he said, describing his limited scope.

At least he uses it brilliantly. Astana team boss Vinokurow even thinks a podium finish in Verona is possible. “Carapaz and Hindley look unassailable. But behind it everything is open,” said the Kazakh.

For the host country of the Giro, Nibali – alongside Domenico Pozzovivo, who is two years older than him – is the only chance of a good place in the overall ranking. Nibali himself has more stage wins in mind. He certainly has what it takes. He has not lost his racing instinct and good control of the bike. Mentally, he seems liberated after the announcement of his farewell. And he also has a good feeling for the right time to say goodbye.

He resigns at a moment when repeating overall victories in grand tours no longer seems possible, but when he is still good for individual top performances. An elder statesman with a punch, a shark that can still bite.



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