His struggle to find some decent form early in the season, his disappointing Tour de France and especially his expulsion from the Vuelta a Espana had cast a shadow over his season. He is convinced that victory at Il Lombardia has turned his season around and given him the peace of mind to enjoy the off-season and look to 2016 with optimism.
"For sure what happened at the Vuelta was a serious mistake, even if it was not only my mistake. But it actually was a chance to start all over again. I can now say that being expelled from the Vuelta was a good thing, it helped me find some anger," Nibali explained in his post-race press conference in Como.
"I'm satisfied with my season. Things often went wrong but thanks to my mental strength and determination I got things back on track and fought back. My season has ended well because I've won a Monument, something an Italian hadn't done for a long time. It's a team victory because of the work everyone did. Now I hope to finish the season well in Abu Dhabi and then we'll start thinking about next season."
Managing the effort
Nibali carefully studied the roads of the new finale of Il Lombardia near Como on Friday, memorising the climbs and the descents of the Civiglio and San Fermo della Battaglia, and also the time and effort needed to stay away on the flat road between the climbs.
"I saw that racing over this new side of Civiglio would be important and make the race," he explained. "I knew it suited the real climbers rather the Classics riders. I carefully studied the Civiglio, the descent the flat road and the San Fermo climb. I knew the time between climbs and that the Civiglio was the key. Then in the race I always knew what was happening behind and wasn't worried about Moreno. The chasers always close the gap on you but I tried to manage my effort. I knew that at the top of San Fermo both the finish and victory was close."
Nibali took some risks on the twisting descent of the Civiglio but denied he takes more risk than Peter Sagan, who is also known for his descending skills that set up his world title in Richmond by distancing his rivals on the key descent.
"Sagan is crazier than I am. I always hold a bit back," he joked.
"There was only one moment when I risked things but it was not my fault, it was when the motorbike was there…. But I tried to keep things under control, stay focused and pick the best lines. I'd memorised the last part and I really wanted to do well today and land a big result. I was closely marked on the Civiglio and speed was fast, so it wasn't easy to pull off an attack, so I did it on the descent. I always wanted to win a major Classic like Lombardy. In the past I've been unlucky or crashed. For me it's like winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege."
Neutralising the pressure at Astana
Nibali celebrated his victory in Como with his wife and young daughter Emma, who joined him on the podium. He also hugged his Astana teammates and his group of Italian staff. Winning Il Lombardia neutralises any pressure from Astana team manager Alexandre Vinokourov and eases his rivalry with teammate and Vuelta a Espana winner Fabio Aru.
"There have been difficult moments this year and not everything went right but I'm proud that I tried to fight back," Nibali argued.
"I think fourth at the Tour de France was actually a good result. The Vuelta incident helped me dig up a lot of anger and I got rid of it on the bike and not in other ways. Me and Aru are not fighting with each other because we've divided the big objectives and share the pressure. It's not easy for the team but there are a lot of good, humble riders in the squad. Look at Rosa and even Landa. All the team worked hard today, taking responsibility for the race. This is a team win, so we're all happy today."
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