Nibali and fellow thirty-something Jakob Fuglsang, 35, fell off the pace midway up the Stelvio while Tao Geoghegan Hart, Jai Hindley, Rohan Dennis, and Wilco Kelderman motored away to fight for the stage. It was a case of age finally giving way to youth as the Giro’s veterans waved goodbye to the race’s young guns.
“There’s no other explanation than that there are a few riders that are really strong,” Nibali said after finishing eighth, nearly five minutes down on stage winner Jai Hindley.
Nibali came to the line with pink jersey-wearing 22-year-old João Almeida, while ahead of them, Hindley, 24, had marked out 25-year-old Tao Geoghegan Hart before pipping the Brit to the line as the pair hauled themselves to within 15-seconds of the GC lead.
“From my side, I did my best,” Nibali said. “The fact of having so many young riders in the front was a factor. And I cannot lie to my identity card. The new generation is pushing, I am almost 36 years old, but I’m still here to try and fight and to do something.”
The classification successes of Hindley, Geoghegan Hart, and Almeida, along with a stage win for 24-year-old Ben O’Connor, have marked a continuation of the trend of youthful exuberance bettering aging wisdom after the successes of Egan Bernal and Tadej Pogačar in the last two editions of the Tour de France. And that’s without Remco Evenepoel in the picture after the Belgian wunderkind had to scrap his planned appearance at the race due to his horrific crash at Il Lombardia.
“There are few of us old riders left,” Nibali said. “I think I’m the only one born in 1984 to fight with the top riders, but I’m still here to fight and do something.”
Nibali now sits in eighth overall, 5:47 off the pink jersey and well out of the frame for a third Giro d’Italia title. At 35 years old and with one year left on his contract with Trek-Segafredo, “The Shark” may only get one more bite at his home grand tour having failed to show his customary flair through this October’s race.
Having finished on the podium in the last seven Giros that he has started, Nibali has no interest in racing for a top 1o result and will pull out the stops to uncork a race-detonating all-or-nothing move on the final mountain stage around Sestriere this weekend.
“We still have two more stages for GC gains and on Saturday it could happen that we see the race explode again,” he said. “Who will win the Giro is too hard to say at the moment.”
With the race balanced on a knife-edge as the top three sit within 15 seconds of one another, no one knows how the race could play out in the final three stages. While the odds of seeing Nibali on the podium for an eighth consecutive time are looking slim, you can be sure the veteran will do all he can to show the kids how it’s done on the final stretch to Milano.