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Vincenzo Nibali announces retirement at end of 2022

Vincenzo Nibali waves to the Budapest crowd at sign-on
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan) confirmed the 2022 Giro d'Italia will be the final in his long career (Image credit: Getty Images)

Vincenzo Nibali has confirmed that he will retire from professional cycling at the end of the 2022 season. The Sicilian made the announcement after stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia, which finished in his native Messina.

Speaking on RAI’s Processo alla Tappa programme, Nibali explained that he had reached the decision to retire before the start of this Giro.

"I was waiting for this stage for a while, for years, it’s where I started to ride and train, so I wanted to confirm that this is my last Giro and my last season," Nibali said with tears in his eyes. 

"It’s time to call it a day. I’ve done so much for so long but it’s the right time. 

“I can’t forget that I left home when I was 15 years old. I think I gave a lot to cycling and now it’s time to give time back to all the people who sacrificed things for me.” 

Nibali entered this Giro with a free role in the Astana-Qazaqstan squad, and he slipped out of the general classification picture after he lost over two minutes on the GC favourites on Mount Etna on stage 4.

There was a certain symmetry at play. Nibali had first climbed Etna as a 10-year-old, when his fatigue meant he needed to be towed part of the way up by his mother’s car. His talent as a cyclist took him away from his native Sicily, first to Tuscany to race with the Mastromarco club and later to his current residence in Lugano.

The route of this year’s Giro offered Nibali a homecoming in his native Messina, and the 37-year-old availed of the opportunity to announce his farewell before his most ardent tifosi and in the presence of his parents.

"I’m emotional. It’s not often I ride into my home town of Messina with the Giro d’Italia. I’m also not often in Messina and Sicily, so it’s always special when I come back," Nibali said. 

"I’ve got lots of memories from my career and lots of things to look back on. There were good and bad moments, injuries that played a part in the outcome of my career, but that’s cycling, there are always good and bad times. It’s all been incredible."

Nibali intends to ride on in the Giro d'Italia and will probably also ride the Tour de France. Il Lombardia is likely to be the last race of his long career.  After Astana lost team leader Miguel Angel Lopez, due to a thigh injury, it will be up to Nibali to defend the team's honour and fly the flag for Italy in the Corsa Rosa for one last time.

"Yesterday on Etna was a tough day for the Astana team and for me. We paid a high price but we’ll try and make amends in the rest of the Giro," Nibali said. 

"I want to enjoy this Giro. I suffered yesterday but I’m not in bad shape. We’ll see how the race goes and decide if I go for some stage victories  or try to stay in the GC." 

A place in history

Nibali retires as one of only seven riders in history to have won all three Grand Tours. He landed the Vuelta a España in 2010, the Giro in 2013 and 2016, and the Tour de France in 2014.

He also claimed Monument victories at Il Lombardia in 2015 and 2017, and at Milan-San Remo in 2018, when he soloed clear on the Poggio and then held off the chasers to win on the Via Roma.

Nibali perhaps reached his zenith with his dominant victory on the 2014 Tour, but his most dramatic triumph came on the 2016 Giro. 

After struggling through the opening two and a half weeks, Nibali turned the race on its head with successive long-range attacks on the final two Alpine stages to seize the pink jersey on the penultimate day.

Beyond the landmark achievements, Nibali’s career was remarkable for its consistency. He finished on the podium in six consecutive participations at the Giro between 2010 and 2019, and he also placed on the podium on two Tours and three Vueltas.

Throughout his career, Nibali was the standard-bearer for Italian cycling, carrying the nation’s hopes in both Grand Tours and the Classics, though he would endure disappointment in the maglia azzurra. He placed fourth after a fall at the Florence Worlds in 2013 and then crashed out of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games while on the cusp of the gold medal.

Nibali began his career with Fassa Bortolo in 2005 and later raced for Liquigas, Astana, Bahrain-Merida and Trek-Segafredo. He returned to Astana-Qazaqstan on a one-year contract ahead of the 2022 campaign, though he declined to confirm publicly whether this would be the final season of his career.

Instead, Nibali’s announcement came as the Giro visited his hometown. 

The long farewell will continue the length of the peninsula, all the way to Verona, as the defining figure of the Giro in the 21st century takes his leave.

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Barry Ryan

Barry Ryan is European Editor 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.