Nibali can smell blood in the water ahead of Giro d’Italia
Last week, the Sicilian of Team Bahrain-Merida launched multiple attacks over the mountain stages in the Tour of the Alps, where he finished third place overall. During Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Nibali attacked into the first chase group, eventually finishing eighth place overall.
These results are confirmation that the Italian is reaching top form as he heads into the Giro.
“I’ve got the taste of blood in my mouth,” Nibali said early in the week, feeling good with his “big efforts” after coming back from a high altitude training camp.
The aggressive riding style and impressive results are signs that Nibali is rounding into top form at exactly the perfect moment. On May 11 he will start the Giro d’Italia, a race he has won twice, as one of several top contenders for the Maglia Rosa. At age 34, Nibali may be a few watts shy of climbing sensations Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Egan Bernal (Sky), and time trial ace Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).
Yet Nibali is the most experienced and perhaps the craftiest rider in the Giro lineup, and his string of April results is a sign that he will have his brains and brawn at the Giro.
“Maybe I lacked that distance needed because the Tour of the Alps had short and punchy stages, but it’s been a good block,” Nibali said. “It’s a perfect final block before the Corsa Rosa for me.”
Nibali’s constant drive may have exposed a weakness of the Bahrain-Merida in the past two races. Domestique Hermann Pernsteiner rode alongside Nibali during the early stages of the Tour of the Alps, yet Nibali was often isolated during the crucial moments of the race. He battled against Sky trio Chris Froome, Tao Geoghegan Hart, and Pavel Sivakov throughout the race — Geoghegan Hart finished second overall and won two stages, and Sivakov won a stage and the overall.
Nibali’s efforts showed that he has plenty of punch in his legs. Nibali hit full throttle several times and was marked by the Sivakov and Geoghegan Hart duo. He rode himself beyond Jan Hirt (Team Astana) and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) onto the final step of the podium.
“It felt like Nibali against the world, so it wasn’t easy,” Nibali said.
“Team Sky were strong and ride a good race. It’s difficult to take on two strong riders and then also had a certain Chris Froome working for them. That was a luxury for them.
“I’ve recovered well each day and feel good. I’m optimistic about how things have gone this week and for the races ahead. I feel good, a win would have made me even happier, but that’s OK.
“We lost sight of what we were doing as a team, and I got isolated and had to go mano-a-mano on my own. The race escaped our grasp, but we tried to win the stages and even pull back time every day even if I knew it’d be difficult.”
Nibali ended his last race block at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he finished 2nd place in 2012. The hard 256km race came right on the heels of the Tour of the Alps, which included five hard racing days through the Austrian and Italian Alps.
“My feelings were good in Liège-Bastogne-Liège,” Nibali said. “Here there were the guys I’ll see in the Giro d’Italia, and we battled through the rain and cold.
The Giro d’Italia starts on May 11 in Bologna with a short uphill time trial. The mountains truly begin in the second week with stage 13 to Lago Serrù.
Nibali is going for a third title to add to his titles from 2013 and 2015. It could be his last big appointment with Team Bahrain-Merida with sources saying he may transfer to Trek-Segafredo in 2020.