Nibali still in line to ride World Championships in supporting role

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) at the 2019 Deutschland Tour
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) at the 2019 Deutschland Tour (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The World Championships were not originally in Vincenzo Nibali's plans for 2019, but Italian cycling's standard bearer may yet find himself called into action in Yorkshire at the end of this month.

National coach Davide Cassani has already made overtures to Nibali about pulling on the maglia azzurra on September 29, and a final decision on his participation will be taken following this week's GP de Québec and GP de Montréal WorldTour races in Canada.


It is already certain that Nibali's seemingly interminable season will continue, as per tradition, until Il Lombardia on October 12, but after riding both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France already this year, it was initially assumed that he would recuse himself from international duty this month.


"I don't know," Nibali told reporters in Quebec City on Wednesday. "I've spoken with Davide Cassani about it, but I'll only know whether I'll go or not after Quebec and Montreal. If I do go, it would be as a helper for Sonny Colbrelli and Matteo Trentin.


"I don't feel bad, considering that it was a stressful season with both the Giro and the Tour. I managed to win a stage at the Tour, but it wasn't easy. I recovered quite well afterwards, and I managed to switch off mentally, which I sometimes think is the most important thing. I had good sensations at the Deutschland Tour, but I'm not exactly in my best condition ever, either – especially for the World Championships."


Nibali was already effectively running on fumes come the end of the Tour de France, but he managed to conjure up a solo stage victory at Val Thorens on the penultimate day of what had been a trying race, which came on the back of his second-place finish at the Giro.


"I used up a lot of energy there. It was one of the coldest Giri there's been in terms of average temperature, and it rained all the time," Nibali said. "Those things have an impact on how you feel, plus there was a week less between the Giro and Tour compared to last year."


Despite those mitigating circumstances, Nibali even suffered the indignity of being jeered from the roadside on occasion during the Tour. Although he had already decided to leave Bahrain-Merida for Trek-Segafredo at the end of this season, he refused to countenance bringing his Tour to a premature end.


"It wouldn't have been good to leave the Tour and go home," Nibali said. "I was even booed a few times, but I paid it no attention. You just have to put all that out of your mind. Sure, it would have been easier to abandon the Tour in that condition, but I wanted to take home a stage and I never gave up on it."


Nibali's back catalogue means that he is a contender on just about every kind of parcours, and he has previously found himself among Italy's leaders on courses that suited him altogether less than the demanding route in Yorkshire. Despite his victory in Sheffield on the 2014 Tour, however, the 34-year-old is adamant that he would play a supporting role if selected this time out.


"I remember very well my win at the Tour, and I remember the roads. I know this won't be an easy World Championships," Nibali said. "But if I'm selected, it will be to help the national team. It's not a course for me, as it's quite fast, although it will become hard late on, because it's very long. There aren't any very hard climbs, and it's very suited to more explosive riders."


Although Nibali insisted that the final decision on his selection will be made by Cassani, he conceded that he would have a say based on his own sensations in Canada this week, where he will ride primarily in support of Bahrain-Merida teammates Colbrelli.


"It depends a bit on how I'm feeling," Nibali said. "The maglia azzurra is a big responsibility. I have the greatest of loyalty to the jersey, so if there's a rider who's better than me, then he deserves to wear the blue jersey instead. But then again, Davide might reckon that the important thing is to build a good group, a good team spirit."

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.