The Shark and his Trek-Segafredo teammates are warming up their engines for a high-octane rescheduled season.
At 35 years old, with a wealth of experience and palmares that few can equal in the pro peloton, Vincenzo Nibali knows how to face new and unknown challenges. Where some see uncertainty and anxiety, he finds stimulus and motivation.
As the days to the restart count down, the Shark is enjoying the calm before the storm. He is an accomplished captain and is ready to lead his team across Italy in his biggest goal, the Giro d’Italia.
“Such an intense racing schedule is something extraordinary and unpredictable,” exclaimed Nibali. “The traditional images of the spring Classics and Grand Tours will be overturned. All the riders, not just the leaders, will be at the starting line full of energy and competitive like never before. This is what awaits us – so let’s be ready!”
These words reflect Nibali’s current mood, a mixture of serenity and anticipation pondered in the discreetness of his home. Last Friday, he returned from 15 days in the Dolomites with teammates Giulio Ciccone, Gianluca Brambilla, Nicola Conci, Jacopo Mosca, Antonio Nibali, and Pieter Weening. The goals were to finalize the condition and improve the pedal stroke, bringing more efficiency, but also more than that. Among the many unknowns of the upturned season, Captain Nibali’s certainty must be the team around him. The camp also served to consolidate the camaraderie between teammates and staff to align each individual’s work within the group.
“Building success starts from the foundation that is the team. During the training camp, I’ve felt around me a great desire to race, perform, and do well. There was a great unity of purpose, the same that I felt during the lockdown months without knowing if and how the season would start again. Trek-Segafredo showed exceptional team spirit, something that we can’t take for granted. There was always a thread that kept us in touch, not only among riders but with the whole group, management and staff included. Now that we can work together side by side, we feel to have obtained an advantage,” said Nibali.
“Despite the lack of racing and the need to improve teamwork, there was a strong harmony and commitment. With Ciccone, Brambilla, and Antonio we trained at Teide and in the Dolomites Conci, Mosca, and Weening joined the group.
“With Giulio, in particular, we created a great feeling. He’s strong, full of energy, and he has an insane determination. Although he’s young, he’s a real team player. We are all happy about the work we’ve done, and now we’re looking forward to testing ourselves in a racing context.”
The long wait for Nibali – and some teammates like Ciccone, who will race a similar schedule – will end on August 1st at Strade Bianche. Following that Nibali will race Trittico Lombardia (August 3rd), Milano-Torino (5th), Milano-Sanremo (8th), Il Lombardia (15th), Giro dell’ Emilia (18th) and the Italian Championship (23rd). Then Nibali will attend a second altitude camp.
Tirreno-Adriatico (September 7-14) and Giro dell’Appennino (20th) will lead into the World Championship in Aigle-Martigny (27th), and finally the Giro d’Italia (October 3-25), where Nibali hopes to have found top form.
“It’s a full gas start without reference points from the past in terms of preparation. The first race series is tremendous. The heat will be a determining factor, and it’s impossible to predict how the physique will react to the difficulty of the Classicissima or Lombardia in August and the recovery from such intense efforts.
“From our side, we know we will have to be in good form because the team wants and deserves to be competitive right from the start. We have many important events to race, and, for me, I also need to take care of my growth in view of the Giro in October. Together with Paolo Slongo (Trek-Segafredo trainer), we have pointed out a well-balanced approach to the Italian Grand Tour. The road will be the testing ground, but if any adaptations are necessary, we are prepared. Time is short, but it’s enough,” explained Vincenzo.
It’s no secret the hunt for a third Maglia Rosa is a big target for Nibali, and the recent announcement from RCS Sport of the Grande Partenza in Sicily with a 16-kilometer individual time trial, is cue for further consideration.
“The warmth of my homeland will offer a beautiful and emotional context, but I cannot allow myself any distractions,” continued Nibali. “The time trial and the arrival on Etna two days later require me to be prepared from the beginning. I think the third week will be the decisive one. The TT specialists have an advantage in the opening stage, but after two weeks, everyone’s physical and mental forces will be different.
“For the Maglia Rosa, I expect tough confrontations from contenders like Carapaz, Fuglsang, and Simon Yates, and one who could be a big surprise, Evenepoel. He’s strong, and he has approached cycling with personality. I like him. Only the road will tell how well he can perform during a three-week Grand Tour.
“Besides Remco, it’s good not to underestimate any outsider. The history of the Giro teaches that every year someone surprises. Last but not least, I dedicate a thought to Peter Sagan, a friend as well as a colleague. I’m happy to have him at the race. As he is already showing with his other great talent – acting in front of a camera – he will make this Giro even more special,” added Nibali.