After a ‘very difficult’ season Nibali has a fresh approach in 2021

Vincenzo Nibali at the Gran Trittico Lombardo.

by Dane Cash

photography by Cor Vos


As the 2021 racing season approaches, Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) is gearing up for another busy campaign.

As ever, the 36-year-old Italian has lofty objectives for the year, with a particularly big goal in July. Five years after he crashed out of the road race at the Rio Olympics while off the front in the finale with just one other rider, Nibali is eyeing another run at an Olympic title in Tokyo.

“It comes only every four years – five in this case – so I’ll try to get there in good condition,” Nibali told reporters in a virtual press conference on Tuesday. “Winning the Olympics would be a nice dream, but it’s not simple.”

Indeed, the competition will be fierce for the gold medal, and it must be said that Nibali is not coming off his best year. With that in mind, he is looking ahead to this season with a slightly different perspective than in years past, not putting all of his eggs in one proverbial basket. He’ll be racing both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the run-up to the Olympics, and who knows? Maybe he can get some results there too.

“The approach is to go race by race, which is something different from the past, maybe not focusing on just one main goal,” Nibali said. “The approach this winter was a bit different from the past.”

That perspective comes on the heels of a 2020 campaign that saw Nibali close out the year without any race victories. He put in several respectable performances on the year, finishing in the top 10s of Il Lombardia and the Giro d’Italia, for instance, but it was not a season to rival the prior years. In fact, 2020 was the first time since all the way back in 2009 the versatile star did not either finish on the podium (at least) of a Grand Tour or win a Monument.

Nibali did not shy away from addressing his 2020 season, although he didn’t claim to have all the answers as to what happened. When asked why things didn’t go to plan, he first replied, “I don’t know,” with a laugh – before analyzing things a bit more closely.

“The 2020 season was very difficult,” he said. “When I started for the second time, I felt I wasn’t ready. I tried to recover and find the form. At the Giro, I wasn’t at the level I wanted. Of course the new generation showed something more in 2020.”

With riders 25 or younger (at the time at least) winning two of the three Grand Tours and two of the four Monuments run in 2020, that new generation’s success was undeniable last year. Nibali opined that the youngsters were better able to cope with the unusual start-stop-start season that was.

“For younger people, this is very, very simple. I remember when I was 10 years younger, I gained the condition quickly. But with a few more years, it’s a little bit complicated,” Nibali said.

“We’re more used to a routine.”

Nibali is hoping that 2021 will be full of opportunities to prove that last season was a one-off. Even as he forges ahead into the latter half of his 30s, the four-time Grand Tour winner and three-time Monument winner still just plain loves winning bike races. That’s motivation in and of itself to keep going into his 17th year as a pro – particularly following a season that didn’t involve any winning at all.

“The desire to win is always a good motivation to start a new season,” he said. “It’s a great feeling that I love to have. I have a lot of success behind me, many successful seasons, some not so much. For sure, 2020 was one of those, but that can be a starting point for this year.”

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