22 year-old Vincenzo Nibali is adding a kick to the Liquigas Giro d'Italia team. He was on target heading into the Corsa Rosa and proved so by winning the GP Industria & Artigianato and Giro di Toscana, May 5 and 6.
The weekend of winning, aided by teammates Franco Pellizotti and Andrea Noè, put Nibali on the right foot for the team time trail in Sardinia. "The Giro started off very well," noted Nibali to La Gazzetta dello Sport on the rest day. "The team time trial win. The Maglia Rosa."
Nibali is an oddity in Italian cycling in that he comes from Sicily. Most riders come from the regions north of Rome.
"My family lives in Messina," he continued. "My dad, Salvatore, works for the city and my mom, Giovanna, works at a video rental shop. My sister, Carmen, 26 years old, has a photo-lab. I have a younger brother, 15, who races in the beginners' category - my father is his trainer."
Nibali made the transfer to an area rich in racing at an early age. "From the age of six, for ten months of the year, I lived in the house of my ex-directeur sportif, Carlo Franceschi, in Lamporecchio [Tuscany]."
Roberto Corsetti, Liquigas' doctor, is impressed with Nibali's natural qualities. "He has three important characteristics; a good strength to weight ratio (5.9 watt/kg), around an 80 ml/kg VO2 maximum and a capacity to work with lactic acid levels high."
Today, those characteristics could come into play when the riders face the 17-kilometre ascent to Montevergine di Mercogliano. "Di Luca explained the climb to me," he said. "He won it in 2001 but I think the most dangerous riders will be Damiano Cunego [won the stage in 2004 - ed.] and Riccardo Riccò, who, even as a junior, has always been unbeatable."
Riccò will be on of Nibali's main competitors for the Maglia Bianca of best young rider. "I think I will be up front, with Danilo. If there is an occasion for me [in stage 4] then why would I throw it away?" (Read: Maglia Bianca returns to Giro d'Italia.)