Meet the Nibalis: Vincenzo and Antonio on being brothers at Bahrain-Merida
'There are nine years between us - I don't know why our parents waited so long'
Their Sicilian, Tuscan-infused accents are the same; they have the same imposing nose and have worn the same red and blue Bahrain-Merida colours since 2017. Vincenzo and Antonio Nibali one of several sets of brothers to race together in the professional peloton.
Vincenzo is Italy's current campione and the best Italian rider of his generation after winning all three Grand Tours, Il Lombardia and even this year's Milan-San Remo during his successful career. Antonio is the younger sibling, trying to follow in his brother's illustrious footsteps, taking advantage of his slipstream while finding his own path as a professional.
Professional cycling, perhaps thanks to genetic similarity, shared passion and a sense of emulation, is often a family affair. Vincenzo and Antonio Nibali often line up alongside twins Adam and Simon Yates, Peter and Juraj Sagan, Nairo and Dayer Quintana, Ion and Gorka Izagirre, and more. The history of the sport includes the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank, Miguel and Prudencio Indurain, Fausto and Serse Coppi, Louison and Jean Bobet, the Moser, Planckaert and De Vlaeminck dynasties and other cycling families, with brothers and sisters also becoming more common.
Vincenzo Nibali turned 34 in November. Antonio is only 26.
"There's nine years difference between us. I don't why our parents waited so long," Antonio jokes as Cyclingnews sits down with the two brothers from Messina, Sicily, during the off-season.
"Because you came by mistake…" Vincenzo interjects, in a rare public show of personal emotion, happy to publicly tease his brother.
Vincenzo has been a professional since 2005, Antonio followed in his footsteps by leaving Sicily to race as an under 23 rider in Tuscany with the Mastromarco squad and turned professional in 2015 with Nippo-Vini Fantini, joining his older brother at Bahrain-Merida in 2017.
Vincenzo has one of the richest palmarès in the history of the sport, while Antonio has only won one race - a stage at this year's Tour of Austria.
"It's difficult to make comparisons with what I've achieved. It's not fair," Vincenzo says in defence of his younger and less talented bother.
"People hear the Nibali surname and expect more from him than they normally would. He has always fought to prove himself and show that he's his own man, without feeling under pressure. Fortunately he's got the character to do that and handle the pressure.
Vincenzo was riding the Tour de France when Antonio won in Austria and was told of his brother's first every victory over the team's race radio. It was a special day for both of them.
"It was great to win my first race and show that I'm good rider in my own right and not just Vincenzo's younger brother," Antonio says with pride.
"Winning a stage at the Tour of Austria was good for him," says Vincenzo. "He's shown he's an excellent team player and also managed to make space for himself. He earned everyone's respect by winning in Austria. I'd hoped to ride the Vuelta a España with him but he wasn't selected and so it didn't happen. Maybe in 2019 - it'd be cool to race more together."
Different riders, different characters
Vincenzo lives in Lugano, Switzerland to escape the reaches of the Italian tax authorities; Antonio has far less taxable income and has put down his roots in Tuscany. They occasionally ride together during the winter when they return to Sicily, with Antonio filming Vincenzo from on-board their gravel bikes when they recently tackled a long off-road descent in Tuscany.
Antonio is younger but is taller than his brother, more of a rouleur than a climber and potential Grand Tour contender. Vincenzo seems more determined and ambitious.
"I'm still growing and so it's difficult to say what kind of rider I really am," Antonio argues.
"I can climb pretty well, as I showed when I won in Austria, and so first of all I'm working hard to be a good domestique. Then we'll see what happens in the next few years. I try to enjoy my racing to create my own career. I'd like to win a stage in a Grand Tour or something. Perhaps I can carve out a precise role for myself in a team."
Vincenzo and Antonio have different talents and significantly different characters.
"He's a bit of a gatto sornione [a pussy cat] - he's very laid back. I perhaps seem quieter and more relaxed but in truth I get more nervous and on-edge, especially in races. I'm more impulsive," Vincenzo reveals.
"I think its normal we're different. We've got different characters. We're brothers but were different," Antonio says. "We usually get on but we sometimes clash like all brothers do. We always make up after falling out.
"I'm more chilled out and enjoy being at home with my family. Enzo is more hyperactive. He likes travelling and being on the move. Even when he's at home, he always finds something to do. He's always playing with his bike or some electronic gadget - he's a bit of a nerd in that sense. I prefer to just chill out on the sofa."
Antonio is nine years younger but appears to be mature and balanced despite the natural expectation for him to emulate his other brother and be as successful in races.
"It can be a little difficult when they ask me: 'When are you going to win the Giro or Milan-San Remo like you're brother?'" Antonio admits. "But I know there are only three riders in the world to have achieved what he has, so it's going to be difficult to match that.
"I'm not too bothered about the comparisons. I'm Antonio Nibali - not Vincenzo Nibali - and I'm going to ride my own road."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.
By Barry Ryan