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Giro d'Italia

Vincenzo Nibali cautions against canceling Giro d’Italia

Two-time winner defends Giro d'Italia from critics who want to end race early.

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Italian star Vincenzo Nibali is standing up for the Giro d’Italia.

The Italian grand tour has come under fire following a string of high-profile cases of COVID-19 that have prompted some to question if the race should continue.

The two-time Giro champion took to Italian TV airwaves on Friday and voiced his support that the grand tour should continue until its scheduled completion on October 25 in Milano.

“Before stopping the Giro, I would think twice,” Nibali said on the post-stage chat show on RAI. “I believe that if, as in this moment, there are the correct conditions to race, it is right that we do so. We must not forget that the Giro is a heritage for all cycling.”

The Giro is under pressure after rest-day controls revealed a handful of riders and staffers tested positive for COVID-19. Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma both left the race, along with Michael Matthews, who has since tested negative in follow-up controls.

Reports of 17 Italian motorcycle police that chaperone the E-Giro as well as complaints from riders about too-crowded hotel facilities has raised concerns about the health and safety of the race. So much so, EF Pro Cycling sent a letter in private to RCS Sport and the UCI suggesting that the race be canceled following Sunday’s stage. That request was shot down, and several Italian teams and riders have since voiced support for the Giro.

Two-time Giro winner Nibali, who perhaps has the highest profile of any rider in the Giro this year, used the popular post-stage TV show on RAI to rally support for the race.

“We are still living in an extraordinary and potentially dangerous situation all over the world, not just here, and I think that the bubble system at the Giro is working,” Nibali said. “The imperative, on our part, is to stick to the rules as strictly as possible.

“I have read several complaints about promiscuity in hotels with other guests,” Nibali continued. “There are teams, for example, who have long since solved the problem with restaurant trucks. We don’t have one, but I can say that we have always had a dedicated and protected space for dinner in the restaurant, and never found ourselves in insecure conditions.”

That certainly hasn’t been the case for all teams and riders, and several have come forward to express concerns about social distancing and masking issues as teams sometimes share hotels with vacationers and other members of the race caravan that are not part of the Giro’s most secure level of COVID bubble protections.

Speaking of his situation in the Giro — he is now fifth overall at 1:07 behind race leader João Almeida — Nibali said he hopes to have a strong weekend to put himself into pole position to win a third Giro title going into the decisive third week. Saturday’s 34.1km is the next challenge, followed by a decisive uphill finish at Piancavallo on Sunday.

“We have an important weekend ahead of us, and the balance should be altered after Sunday,” Nibali said. “A time trial like tomorrow’s requires to do it to the maximum of your strength. I could lose something compared to the specialists, but the next day, with a hard climb like Piancavallo, the intense effort could also remain in someone’s legs.”

Perhaps there’s another reason Nibali wants the race to finish in Milano. He needs that third week if he hopes to win a career fifth grand tour.