Q&A with Vincenzo and Antonio on being brothers and teammates
For the fourth consecutive year, Vincenzo and Antonio Nibali will be teammates. After three years together wearing the jersey of Bahrain-Merida, the Nibalis are ready to kick off a new adventure with Trek-Segafredo.
Almost eight years separate the Italian brothers – Vincenzo, 35, was born November 1984, Antonio, 27, September 1992 – and a few personality traits are different. Still, the love for cycling is massive for both and comes organically from their father, Salvatore. Both moved at a young age from their home region Sicily to Tuscany, looking for more chances to race and make the quality step into professional. In 2017, they joined forces in the same team, and in 2019 they raced the biggest race in Italy, the Giro d’Italia, together.
Vincenzo’s and Antonio’s first appearance in the Trek-Segafredo colors will be the Mallorca training camp January 11, and they will make their race debut at the Volta ao Algarve. Before Vincenzo and Antonio ensconce into a deep focus around training, racing, and performance, we found time to sit down with both to discover more about the Nibali brotherhood.
TFS: Family is important for everyone, but for Italians, it is almost sacred. How do you balance being brothers in the context of the team?
VN: With the greatest naturalness. Since the first time we raced together, first as opponents then as teammates, the sense of brotherhood has prevailed. It’s impossible to separate the role of brother to the role of teammates, but when we’re in a race, we know how to be professionals and know our jobs. Being brothers has helped in a lot of situations; with just an exchange of looks, we understand each other.
AN: We chat a lot; there’s an intense exchange of views and opinions. We are very direct with each other, and this is very useful when we talk about races. Compared to other teammates, I understand him, even in the tense moments. But our relationship is also based on the principle of strictly respecting each other’s role.
TFS: You have almost eight years of difference: what kind of relationship do you have outside of cycling?
VN: Eight years could be a lot, but it’s not in our case. I’m the older brother, so I’m pleased to give him suggestions when he asks, but I do only because sometimes I’ve already found myself in the same situation. I help him, but I don’t feel protective of him. I think he has to experience life from his point of view, even if this includes mistakes.
AN: When we were young, we spent a lot of time together. We grew together. We have different character and habits, first because we’re from different generations. But the imprinting is the same. We also do the same job, so I know how much it can be stressful. We spend a lot of time together during races, and when we’re at home, we respect each other’s privacy.
TFS: Describe each other: Who is your brother?
VN: Antonio is sly as a cat. He’s always very calm. He has a sensible approach, both in real life and in cycling. But when he is called to action, he’s very reactive!
AN: Vincenzo is the most picky and detailed person I know. When he focuses on something, he goes all-in. He’s a true and simple guy; he has no frills, and he will never give up. This has always been the key feature for his success.
TFS: Last year you raced the first Giro d’Italia together. Do you remember a particular anecdote?
VN: The most vivid moment I remember is stage 20, on the hardest day of the Giro. The stage had a full-speed start, and in a key moment on the first climb, I had a puncture. Even if he was struggling, Antonio was close to me. Without even thinking, he got off his bike and gave me his wheel. It’s a natural act for a gregario, but never predictable. He knew he would never be able to make it back to the front of the group, and he could have waited for someone else to give the wheel, but he didn’t, and I really appreciated that.
AN: I cherish two memories: First, the passage of the Giro in Mastromarco, a small town in Tuscany, where both me and Vincenzo rode as young riders. We rode side by side, with friends and people cheering for us. Second, the combined action on the Mortirolo, with me pulling hard for him. It was one of the hardest days on a bike for me, but also it was the essence of our brotherhood and the respect I have for him as team leader.
Being brothers has helped in a lot of situations; with just an exchange of looks, we understand each other.
TFS: Vincenzo, what did you try to transmit to him as a rider? And Is there something that you envy in him?
VN: I always wanted to lead by example for him, mainly the dedication he needs to have to be a professional rider. Nothing must be left to chance: being serious and making the maximum effort on the bike every day because daily work is at the basis of every success.
I envy him for his capacity in handling the pressure that comes with his surname, especially when he was in the youth categories.
TFS: Antonio, what did you learn the most from Vincenzo, and what do you think you’ve improved in him?
AN: He always told me to believe in myself and my capacities. It has been a mantra for me – never giving up and always fight for my goals. Honestly, it’s hard to improve Vincenzo the rider. But for sure, when we’re together, thanks to me he’s more attuned to punctuality!
TFS: Quickfire questions:
Who’s a better bike mechanic?
VN: Me, of course.
AN: Yes, Vincenzo.
Who’s more gluttonous of sweets?
AN: I feel the most gluttonous.
Are you superstitious?
VN: Yes, a fair bit.
AN: Not so much.
Who’s more punctual?
VN: Let’s say that both try to be punctual.
AN: No doubt – I am the most!