The Sicilian ended Italy's long draught of success in the Classics by winning Il Lombardia, helping him move on from the embarrassment and shame of his expulsion from the Vuelta but the difficulties of the season have their mark.
Nibali will be 31 on November 14 and is about to prepare for his twelfth season as a professional, knowing that fellow Italian and Astana teammate Fabio Aru us snapping at his heels after winning the Vuelta a Espana. Yet he seems determined to focus on his own career, insisting he has learnt from the mistakes anddifficulties of 2015 and found some balance between his racing and his personal and family life.
Cyclingnews: How do you judge your 2015 season?
Vincenzo Nibali: It's been difficult, really difficult at times. But I always tried to stay focused and not give up. My results aren't great, at least on paper, but I tried to be competitive and to fight whenever I could. I think that's part of my character. I've perhaps learnt more than ever before that not ever season can be the same. Last year was amazing because I won the Tour de France but this year things didn't go as well or as smoothly. But I've realised that with some determination you can always fight back and achieve something. I think a person's mental strength is especially important in moments like that and during the season I've had.
CN: Are you referring specifically to being expelled from the Vuelta a Espana?
VN: Yes and no. What happened at the Vuelta was a mistake, even if it was not only my mistake. But it actually gave me a chance to start all over again. Being expelled fro the Vuelta was almost a good thing, it helped me find some anger. I headed home to Sicily and trained really hard. There was nothing else I could do in that situation. But I didn't want to end my season that way, so I tried to fix some end of season objectives and prepare for them. Il Lombardia was the big one and the race that suited me the most. The world championships didn't suit me and I wasn't in the long team but I earned my place in the Italian team for Richmond by winning races. It was good to be part of the Italian team again. Neither the team or I came home with a result we are happy with but it was important to build for the future.
CN: Do you regret how the Tour de France went?
VN: No. I tried to do the best I could but it's never easy in professional cycling. Winning back-to-back editions of the Tour de France is very tough. There's a lot of pressure and extra attention on you when you've won the Tour. The media and fans perhaps expected more from me but I'm satisfied with my stage win and fourth overall at the Tour de France because of the way I fought for it. We're human and have good and bad seasons. That's part of cycling and has to be accepted. We've got to learn how to accept defeat. Nothing is mathematical in cycling.
CN: Was Astana's WorldTour licence problems the source of some of your problems?
VN: To be honest the problems of the team's licence never really bothered me. I focused on my racing and training. Of course I was often asked about the team but I never really knew what to say. It was more about politics than what we as individual riders could do or say.
I tried to keep out of it all. When I'm at home I switch off from racing. I don't even watch racing on television. I try to live my life and enjoy my time with my family. For me cycling is everything but it's also nothing compared to the rest of my life and family. Riding a bike gives me freedom and makes me happy. I train and race because I like riding my bike. But when I climb off my bike, I switch off totally.
CN: Last year you spent a lot of your winter attending events as Tour de France winner but you have said you have different plans.
VN: I'm going to switch off from all the non-cycling activities but to be honest I won't spend a long time off the bike this winter. I've learnt that lesson. I'll still ride for a few hours and mix road ride with mountain biking. I'll ride my bike without being obliged to ride, which is probably the most enjoyable way. Of course I need my time to recover, but we're already looking at dates for training camps, so we will soon start all over again.