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Vincenzo Nibali insists age not an impediment 'despite what the keyboard warriors write'

Trek-Segafredo's Vincenzo Nibali climbs the Passo dello Stelvio during stage 18 of the 2020 Giro
Vincenzo Nibali climbs the Stelvio at the 2020 Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

On the eve of his 36th birthday, Vincenzo Nibali has insisted that he is not to be written off just yet. 

In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Trek-Segafredo rider described the pandemic-interrupted 2020 season as a “strange year” from which it was difficult to draw firm conclusions.

Nibali could only manage seventh overall at the Giro d’Italia, having placed on the podium in each of his six appearances in the Corsa Rosa over the previous decade. The Sicilian’s last Grand Tour win came in the 2016 Giro, but he downplayed the suggestion that his days of contesting victory in three-week races were over.

“It was an open-ended year, so strange that I wouldn’t take it as being a completely reliable indication,” Nibali told La Gazzetta. “The Giro didn’t go according to expectations, there’s no doubt about that. The young riders coped better with a season that was like that, not just in cycling.”

Nibali celebrates his 36th birthday on Saturday, but he dismissed the idea that his age would be an impediment in 2021.

“That’s not so old that you should be cast aside, despite what the keyboard warriors might write. The key thing is your desire and the pleasure you get from riding a bike,” said Nibali, who conceded that “mistakes were made” in his preparation for the revised slate of Autumn racing. 

“If I could go back, I wouldn’t have done two training camps in the mountains, but just one. And I would have added some more races.”

In order to limit his possible exposure to COVID-19 and remain within Trek-Segafredo’s Giro ‘bubble,’ Nibali raced exclusively in Italy from August, which limited him to just one stage race, Tirreno-Adriatico, ahead of the Grande Partenza in Palermo.

Nibali set out from Sicily as a favourite for overall victory but his challenge floundered in the Valdobbiadene time trial and at Piancavallo on the third weekend, and he was unable to conjure up a comeback in the final week, losing further time.

He reached Milan 8:15 behind surprise winner Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers).

“For many years, whenever I’ve targeted a Grand Tour, I’ve been in the fight for the top positions. A bad year can happen – in fact, there are those who have more of them than me," Nibali said.

"Nobody has ever gifted me anything, and as recently as 2019, I was second at the Giro, between Carapaz and Roglič, who confirmed their quality at the Vuelta this year…”

Nibali’s contract with Trek-Segafredo expires at the end of 2021 and he has yet to decide whether next season will be the last of his career.

“I don’t know, I’ll take it day by day,” Nibali said. “I can still do nice things in cycling, once I’ve analysed 2020 well.”

The road race at the delayed Tokyo Olympics is likely to be on Nibali’s 2021 programme, though he has yet to formalise the rest of his schedule.

“My idea is not to concentrate on one target but to race ‘freely,’ so to speak, without the pressure and the stress of getting a result at all costs. And without thinking about the following races.”