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Cyclist’s favourite Vincenzo Nibali moments

Robyn Davidson
30 May 2022

With Nibali to retire at the end of 2022, we revisit our favourite Lo Squalo performances

It was only fitting that Vincenzo Nibali, a man whose nickname forever ties him to Messina, waited until a Giro d’Italia stage finished in his hometown to announcement his retirement plans.

After Stage 5, the Astana-Qazaqstan rider revealed he would retire at the end of 2022.

He would then go on to finish 4th overall and receive a special trophy of the Trofeo Bonacossa in Verona.

Nibali’s palmarès is extensive, boasting none other than all three Grand Tours: the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España.

As the peloton prepares to lose one of its most accomplished riders, the Cyclist team recall their favourite Vincenzo Nibali moments...

Pete Muir, editor

Milan-San Remo, 2018

Marco Bertorello via Getty Images

Milan-San Remo is known as the ‘Sprinters’ Classic’, but in 2018 the sprinters were out-foxed – by a shark.

Like any good shark (fox-shark), Nibali – riding for Bahrain-Merida – hid just beneath the surface for the first 290-odd kilometres of the race, waiting for his moment to attack.

It came on the Poggio, the last climb of the day, when Latvian cyclist Krists Neilands jumped from the pack and Nibali darted after him like a viper (a fox-shark-viper).

While the favourites such as Peter Sagan and Michał Kwiatkowski looked at each other, Nibali went over the summit alone.

He then gave a masterclass in descending – equal measures skill and insanity – to arrive on the final flat section with only a handful of seconds over the pack.

They chased him down like a hare, but he clung on doggedly to slip across the line just ahead of the charging mass of sprinters. It was perhaps the greatest moment in the career of the Fox-Shark-Viper-Hare-Dog of Messina.

Robyn Davidson, editorial assistant

Tour de France, 2014

Francois Lo Presti via Getty Images

The 2014 Tour de France marked my first time at the Grand Tour, which is why I hold it in such high regard.

A 5am drive around dark country lanes evolves into five hours sat at the side of the road, watching, waiting.

Eventually the peloton passed by and we had to listen to the shouts on commentary as Mark Cavendish took down Simon Gerrans on the first day into Harrogate.

Vincenzo Nibali would go on to cement his status as a cycling legend, pummelling the iconic cobbles to Arenberg in the yellow jersey and pouring rain, taking over two minutes on his rivals in absolute balls-to-the-wall style racing.

Sure, both Chris Froome and Alberto Contador crashed out during that Grand Tour, but he still had to get himself to the finish in a Tour de France that seemingly took out its contenders without warning.

And I’m not the only one that Tour stuck with... 

Will Strickson, Editorial Assistant

Tour de France, 2014

Eric Feferberg via Getty Images

You always feel an affinity to someone who shares your birthday. You feel an even greater affinity to them when they’re two feet away from you.

So, after the 2014 Tour de France, Nibali placed himself firmly among my cycling heroes and that’s before he won anything. With the Tour starting in Yorkshire, I went to see the early parts of both Stage 1 and Stage 2 and capture a glimpse of the Italian national champion for the ‘gram.

His wins on Stage 2 and Stage 5 not only brought Lo Squalo an early stranglehold on the yellow jersey, they also showed his underrated Classics prowess.

The second stage into Sheffield was an Ardennes-style day with constant hills. Following the final climb up the ‘Côte de Jenkin Road’, he attacked a group including Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Peter Sagan, Michał Kwiatkowski and Greg Van Avermaet with 2km to go and held them to the line, bagging the maillot jaune in the process.

On Stage 5, the Tour not only channelled Paris-Roubaix but actually featured a few of the same fearsome pavé of the Hell of the North.

Nibali had never raced Roubaix and hasn’t since, but he finished third that day just behind teammate Jakob Fuglsang, the pair just 19 seconds behind Lars Boom, but with the yellow jersey safe.

The next GC rider to come home was Team Sky’s Richie Porte, a further two minutes down on the Italian. His climbing ability was never in doubt but his assured and impressive display on the cobbles showed that Vincenzo could win any race.

It’s a shame he never rode Roubaix and only did the Tour of Flanders once, but he won our hearts so does it matter?

Martin James, Production Editor

2016 Giro d'Italia

NurPhoto via Getty Images

The 2016 Giro was the last of Nibali’s Grand Tour wins, and boy did he have to work for it.

The entire race had a Dutch feel to it, from the race’s opening weekend in the country to the prominence of Tom Dumoulin, Steven Kruijswijk and an emerging Bob Jungels over the opening fortnight.

As home favourite, Nibali had been riding with the weight of the tifosi on his shoulders. He had featured only sporadically in the mountains, and disappointed in a mountain time-trial he was expected to dominate.

But then came the comeback. Over back-to-back stages in the high mountains, Nibali turned the race on its head. Kruijswijk ploughing into a snow drift while in pink will be remembered as the final week’s defining moment, but it was Nibali’s relentless riding on the front that had pushed the Dutchman to his limits.

It was just another reminder, if any was still needed, of just how complete a rider Nibali remained even towards the tail end of his prime years.