Vincenzo Nibali and his Trek-Segafredo team have conceded that the younger generation were simply better at this year's Giro d'Italia, with Ineos Grenadiers' Tao Geoghegan Hart taking the overall victory from Sunweb's Jai Hindley, while previous two-time winner Nibali had to settle for seventh overall in Milan.
"It was a difficult, complicated year, in which we had to reinvent everything, preparing for the reduced calendar without forgetting the final approach to the Giro," 2013 and 2016 race winner Nibali said on his team's website.
"The result of this Giro must be accepted as it is. It was different from the expectations I had, and, at the same time, I had to deal with a group of young climbers, who I applaud for their beautiful performances – most of all, to the winner, Tao Geoghegan Hart.
"Now it's time to close this year, both from a sporting and human point of view," continued the 35-year-old. "Then the time will come to take stock with our coaches and the team, to analyse what has been and, above all, to plan what will be."
Trek-Segafredo came away with Nibali's seventh place as their highlight of this year's Giro – his lowest finish at the race since taking 11th back in 2008 – with no stage win or classification jersey, which team general manager Luca Guercilena said they have to accept, while looking at where they could improve with regard to the new season.
"We close this Giro fully aware that we have left no stone unturned to achieve the best result," said Guercilena. "We cannot blame anything on Vincenzo and the rest of the guys; there is no doubt that everyone has given what they could."
Guercilena admitted that the team had gone into the race with the highest ambitions, and kept pushing all the way to Milan, but that losing Pieter Weening as early as stage 5 due to a crash the previous day, and Giulio Ciccone and Gianluca Brambilla having to leave the race in the final week due to bronchitis and the effects of an earlier crash, respectively, certainly hadn't helped their cause.
"We must accept with serenity the verdict of the road, congratulating those who were stronger, but not forgetting some factors that have conditioned our team performance, such as losing the essential contribution of three riders in Ciccone, Brambilla and Weening," he said.
"We'll have time to analyse our performance with objectivity after this strange and unordinary season," added Guercilena. "One element, however, is clear: the confidence in our riders. The dedication that we have seen in this Giro must be the push to re-launch in the coming season. And Vincenzo Nibali, with his talent, determination and professionalism will undoubtedly be a fundamental element for our restart."
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