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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia: Vincenzo Nibali throws out GC ambition after incident-riddled stage

Sicilian veteran hands leader's baton to Giulio Ciccone in what could be his last-ever Giro.

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Vincenzo Nibali was swimming against the current at the Giro d’Italia on Saturday.

An incident-riddled day saw “The Shark” suffer a series of misfortunes early in the race’s eighth stage that saw him down on the tarmac and down on his hopes.

“My Giro started uphill and isn’t getting much better,” Nibali said after the stage Saturday.  “I’ve been through a lot today in the first part of the stage. First, a puncture and then a slip on a bend while going through a small town. I have a few bruises.”

“That’s the way it is right now; I have to deal with it. I will think about recovering and look ahead.”

Nibali finished Saturday’s stage alongside all the GC favorites after the classification battle went on simmer ahead of the multi-mountain mayhem on tap for Sunday.

Also read: How the GC favorites stack up ahead of big weekend in the mountains

Sitting 1:43 down on pink jersey Atilla Valter and 1:32 down on top favorite Remco Evenepoel, some could say that Nibali’s hopes of a seventh podium finish at his home race aren’t yet over.

But with rising countryman Giulio Ciccone poised within the lead collective of classification contenders, Nibali has quietly passed leadership duties to his 26-year-old teammate.

“We have Ciccone who is going strong; it’s right to stay close to him and to support him as a team,” Nibali said. “Tomorrow will be a tough and important stage. Let’s focus on the team goal.”

Also read: Nibali, Evenepoel racing Giro at opposite ends of career 

The effective relinquishing of GC duties could mark a major moment for Nibali.

The 36-year-old is out of contract at the end of the year, and it’s been some time since his last headline-hitting victory. With five years since he last pulled on the pink jersey for his 2016 Giro victory and three years since he won Milano-Sanremo, a challenge for Olympic Gold in Tokyo this summer may mark the final time we see “The Shark” swim in pro waters.

Contrastingly, Ciccone has impressed through the opening week of the Giro, following the right wheels and making moves of his own on the hilly stages so far. With stage wins and KoM jerseys already in his palmarès, maybe it’s Ciccone’s time to take the logical next step.