Vincenzo Nibali was forced to move from Sicily to Tuscany while still a schoolboy to pursue his dreams of becoming a cyclist but by winning the Vuelta a Espana, he has now confirmed he is one of the best stage race riders of his generation and a likely contender against Alberto Contador in future editions of the Tour de France.
Nibali was emotional but happy after climbing onto the final winner’s podium in Madrid and pulling on the winner’s ‘roja’ jersey.
“I’ve always wanted and always dreamed about winning a grand tour and now I can finally say that I’m part of cycling’s elite that has done it,” he said.
“It was difficult to win, I had to fight and go deep but I built my victory day after day by being careful about every tiny aspect of the race: the time bonuses, my position in the peloton, and the finale of every stage. The last few days were the hardest because it seemed that everybody was racing against me. But climbing onto the final podium in Madrid is one of the best moments of my life. It’s all very emotional and it will take me a few days for it to sink in that I’ve won the red jersey.”
Nibali is a complete rider and has often been described as the Italian answer to Alberto Contador because he can both time trial and climb. He has played down the comparison but is not afraid to say he wants to try and take on the Tour de France winner in years to come.
“I’ll start thinking about next season form November onwards. I’ve developed gradually and constantly. I’m ambitious and aware of my ability. I want to win the big and text myself against everyone. I don’t know if I’ll ever beat Contador and Andy Schleck but I’m definitely going to try.”
Next stop: the world championships
Nibali started racing, and winning, at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina in mid-January. He has since won a mountain stage and the team time trial, and finished third overall, at the Giro d’Italia, won a stage and the overall classification at the Tour of Slovenia and dominated the Trofeo Melinda one-day race in Italy. He has now won a career total of 19 races but his 2010 season is not yet over.
After celebrating his Vuelta success, Nibali will join up with his teammates in the Italian national team and then travel to Australia on Tuesday for the world road race championships. He is part of the nine-rider Italian team and is ready to play whatever role is asked of him in the road race on October 3.
“It’s an incredible season but it isn’t over yet. I’m going to join up with the rest of the Italian team tomorrow that is about to leave for Australia,” he said.
“It’s going to be my first world championships but I’m ready to give it everything. National coach Paolo Bettini knows me pretty well and I’ll do whatever he asks me to do. There isn’t a lot of time to recover from the Vuelta but that’s okay.”
“Before thinking about the worlds I’m going to celebrate with my Liquigas-Doimo teammates in Spain because they did a great job in helping me win. We’re like a family rather than just a team and I’m sure that’s the secret of our success.”