Vincenzo Nibali admits form an unknown ahead of Giro di Sicilia

CANTAGRILLO ITALY MARCH 26 Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and Team Astana Qazaqstan prior to the 36th Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali 2022 Stage 5 a 160km stage from Casalguidi to Cantagrillo CoppieBartali on March 26 2022 in Cantagrillo Italy Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
(Image credit: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Vincenzo Nibali’s lone victories during his time at Trek-Segafredo came at last October’s Giro di Sicilia, and he returns to home roads this week seeking to kick-start his second spell at Astana-Qazaqstan.

The 37-year-old will ride the Giro d’Italia next month alongside Miguel Angel López, and he admitted that his form is something of an unknown ahead of the corsa rosa

Nibali had originally intended to make a tilt at several Monuments this Spring, but he then opted to focus on the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, only for COVID-19 and tonsillitis to ruin his early-season plans in February and compromise his form.

He returned to racing in late March, riding Milano-Torino, the Settimana Coppi e Bartali (where he placed 11th overall) and the GP Industria but not Tirreno-Adriatico or Milan-San Remo.

"It’s been a difficult year, with COVID and tonsilitis,” Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “The build-up to the Giro has been like that. We’re having to get used to seasons that are a bit out of the ordinary. It’s not easy.

“I felt good after the comeback at Coppi e Bartali, and I went directly to train in the Canaries at Mount Teide. From there I’ve come here to Sicily. I think I’ve worked well, and these stages will be another block of work.

“I don’t have a direct comparison. For me, too, it’s a bit of an unknown as to how I really am. If some good things come, I’ll be more than happy. And then I’ll ride Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”

The Giro di Sicilia got underway on Tuesday morning in Milazzo, near Nibali’s hometown of Messina, and the roads are more than familiar.

“To be honest, it has a certain effect coming back on these roads and feeling at home,” he said. 

“There’s a mix of strong emotions. I trained with my teammates, and you say ‘I know this area’ or ‘here you need to be careful.’ There are a lot of things that make you emotional, and you inevitably lose concentration because you think of other things.”

In October, Nibali soloed clear on the final stage of the pandemic-delayed Giro di Sicilia in Mascali, securing overall victory ahead of Alejandro Valverde. 

He sets out with number one on his back in 2022, and Astana-Qazaqstan are one of only three WorldTour teams in the race with Trek-Segafredo and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert.

A fellow Sicilian is also a contender to win the event, which finishes atop Mount Etna on Friday. Damiano Caruso lines up this week in the colours of the Italian national team. It will be his first appearance in the event and his first race since he helped Bahrain Victorious teammate Matej Mohorič to victory at Milan-San Remo.

“I spoke to him a little while ago, and he was emotional because it’s his first Giro di Sicilia,” said Nibali, who raced as young Under 23 riders together in Tuscany after moving north from Sicily.

“We’re the symbols of this region. A while back he told me: ‘I’m riding it with the national team, will you come with us too?’

“Last year at the race, he was hidden in amid the public and when I rode past he shouted at me… I recognised the voice. I turned around and it was him, making fun of me with that 44-tooth smile.”

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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, published by Gill Books.