Vincenzo Nibali has admitted that it would be “presumptuous” to think he could win a Grand Tour again at the age of 37, but the Italian is determined to make the most of what seems likely to be his final season as a professional in 2022.
Nibali returned to Astana-Qazaqstan this winter after spending three seasons with Bahrain and two with Trek-Segafredo. He is scheduled to ride both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France and has also been pencilled in to ride all five Monuments, even if a final decision on his participation on the cobbles has yet to be taken.
“I certainly want this year to be a long showcase, but to think of winning of a Grand Tour again would be presumptuous,” Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“But I’m happy to have returned to Astana, where I enjoyed some great years. If I’m here, it’s because there’s a sense of confidence, of willingness to work.”
Nibali’s last Grand Tour victory came in Astana colours at the 2016 Giro d'Italia but he remained competitive over three weeks during his time at Bahrain, finishing on the podium of the Giro in 2017 and 2019, as well as second overall at the 2017 Vuelta a España.
He struggled to replicate those results during his sojourn at Trek-Segafredo, however. He placed seventh overall in the 2020 Giro, which was held in October as the calendar was rewritten by the coronavirus lockdown, and he finished 18th overall in 2021 after breaking his wrist a month before the start.
Speaking to La Gazzetta, the veteran Sicilian acknowledged that he had struggled with the hiatus for the pandemic in 2020, while he was nursing knee problems last season. His lone success for Trek-Segafredo came at the Giro di Sicilia last October.
“I found myself in a new group, in a very international team. Shortly afterwards, COVID-19 [pandemic] started, even if we had set out quite well,” Nibali explained.
“But the build-up to the races after we started back was maybe too rushed, wrong. As for the second year… I never spoke about it in the past, but I had knee problems. I struggled with that problem, which was also linked to sponsorship and contractual obligations.”
Although Trek-Segafredo is managed by Luca Guercilena and the roster featured several Italian riders, Nibali admitted that he was glad to return to Astana-Qazaqstan, where Italian is more often the lingua franca among riders and staff.
“Being at Trek made me improve my English, even if one time in a training camp, I didn’t understand a question and I answered in the wrong way, and I ended up almost being ridiculed. I didn’t enjoy that,” Nibali revealed.
“In the final part, as I understood more, I fitted in more. I had a great relationship with my teammates, and we also resolved problems by talking about them.”
Nibali will start his 2022 season at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana next week, and he is also set to ride the Ruta del Sol, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Tirreno-Adriatico ahead of Milan-San Remo.
“We’ll take stock of the month of April after Milan-San Remo,” he said.
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