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Giro d'Italia

Vincenzo Nibali and Dominico Pozzovivo rattle the Giro d’Italia cage

Aging war horses carry Italian pride into the second week of a Giro d'Italia that's so far without an Italian stage winner.

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BLOCKHAUS, Italy (VN) — The biggest cheer from the crowd at the mountaintop finish watching the big-screen TVs on Sunday came when Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) momentarily attacked the GC group in the closing kilometers of the stage.

The 39-year-old Pozzovivo gave something for the Italian fans to cheer about Sunday as Italian riders have yet to win a stage in this year’s Giro d’Italia.

“It’s encouraging to do such a good result today because it was truly the first hard stage of the Giro so far,” Pozzovivo said at the line. “The most difficult moment came when [Richie] Porte accelerated in the crosswind. I was at my limit, but I was able to hold on, and that gave me a big mental boost to keep pushing.”

Another aging warrior racing into the frame Sunday was Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qasaqstan), who confirmed last week he will be retiring at the end of the 2022 season.

The two-time Giro winner is determined to make his final Giro count, and proved he still has some grinta left in the tank and he rode deep into the stage with the GC group.

“Today was truly difficult. I was really struggling but I was able to stay close to the best, so that’s encouraging,” Nibali said as TV crews crowded around him. “I am taking it day by day, and today I wanted to see how I can manage. We know the GC is going to be complicated, but today was an important test. We know the Giro is long.”

It’s at once thrilling and disappointing for the Italian fans to see the old war horses Nibali and Pozzovivo riding near the top of the leaderboard.

Both riders have carried Italian cycling for more than a decade, with Nibali emerging as the most successful Italian of his generation, and Pozzovivo always delivering consistent and steady results despite some horrific crashes and setbacks.

“This is encouraging for me, because the past five years I have really struggled with some problems that almost cost me my career,” said Pozzovivo, who was sixth on the stage and climbed eighth overall.

“I was able to overcome those problems, and now I am looking optimistically into the final week,” he said. “The final week is the hardest of this Giro, but I am hoping if I have the same legs, I can count on my experience to do something important in this Giro.”

Yet it’s also troubling because there are no younger riders coming up the ranks to take over.

The best Italian behind the two veterans was Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa), who was 14th at 1:42 back. Highly touted Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) struggled, got gapped early, and lost more nine minutes.

For Nibali, he seems determined to go down with a fight. He lost contact in the final reaches, but finished eighth at 16 seconds back.

With his losses on Mount Etna on stage 4, Nibali settled into 13th overall at 3:04 going into Monday’s rest day.

“It’s great to see Domenico up there as well today. We are both professionals, and we are determined to give our best right to the end. He’s doing that and so am I,” Nibali said. “But neither Domenico nor myself are forever, so we are also hoping that there are some young riders coming up to take our place.”

The Italian fans seem ready to cheer for the “Shark of Messina” one more big win.