In 2008 was Nibali was just 23 and only had one-day race victories on his palmares. The aggressive Sicilian beat Stefano Garzelli by 15 seconds after winning stage three on the Passo del Sommo. He went on to confirm his promise as a Grand Tour contender by finishing 11th at the Giro d'Italia and then 20th at the Tour de France.
Fast forward five years and Nibali is now team leader at Astana. He won the 2010 Vuelta Espana, was second in the 2011 Giro d'Italia and finished third behind Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome (Team Sky) at the 2012 Tour de France.
This year he face Wiggins on equal terms and on home turf, first at this week's Giro del Trentino and then at the Giro d'Italia.
"It's been five years and back then I was younger in a lot of ways," Nibali reminisced at the pre-race Giro del Trentino press conference in Lienz, where the four-day-, five-stage race begins on Tuesday with a 128.5km road race stage in the morning followed by a 14.1km team time trial in the afternoon.
"It was an important moment for me because I went onto be a joint team leader with Franco Pellizotti at the Giro d'Italia and proved my stage race credentials. It was great to win and I think I won it well. I've only got good memories from 2008."
"Back then I didn’t know my limits as rider. I went on to mature and do better year after year. I rode the Tour the year after, finishing seventh. Then in 2010 I was on the podium in the Giro. Since then I think I've become very consistent in stage races."
Nibali won Tirreno-Adriatico in mid-March, using his aggression to topple Team Sky and Chris Froome in the pouring rain and steep climbs on the penultimate stage. Since then he as been focusing on preparing for the Giro d'Italia with a long spell at altitude at Teide on Tenerife, the preferred second home for most stage race riders looking for a controlled environment, the effects of altitude and lots of long climbs for quality training rides.
Nibali will target Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday but before then the team tine trial and the three mountain stages will be vital final preparation for the Giro d'Italia and a chance to strike a moral boosting blow on Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso and other Giro d'Italia rivals.
"I rode Trentino in 2011 and it's always been an important step on the road to the Giro d'Italia," he said.
"This is my first race since winning Tirreno-Adriatico and riding Milan-San Remo. I've been at a training camp at altitude and so I'm not really sure how I'm going. I think my form's good. I know I've worked well and so I'm confident of doing well. Lots of things can happen during a race but it'll be up to use to seize the moment."
"The most important thing is to get back into some kind of racing rhythm. Of course, if there's a chance to do well, I'll give it try. Whatever happens, this will be a keep moment on the road to the Giro d'Italia."
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