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The Astana-Qazaqstan star lined up at the start of stage 4 back on Spanish roads with all eyes forward.
“For me it’s all about trying to win a stage during this Vuelta,” Nibali said Tuesday. “The road will tell me quickly where I am at.”
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Nibali, 37, comes into the Vuelta as one of six former winners of the Spanish grand tour.
The Italian won back in 2010, and finished second to Chris Horner in 2013 and second again to Chris Froome in 2017.
After riding to fourth overall at the Giro d’Italia in May, when he confirmed he would retire at the end of this season, Nibali rolls into the Vuelta intent on making it count.
“We made it out of Holland pretty good, and now we are landing here in the Basque Country ready for battle,” Nibali said. “These climbing stages obviously will suit us better.”
The so-called “Shark of Messina” returns to the Vuelta for the first time since 2018 for his seventh career start at the Spanish grand tour.
Nibali won in his first crack at the Vuelta in 2010 to announce his arrival as a grand tour-caliber rider.
— Great Cycling Victories (@gcvictories) August 15, 2022
He returned in 2011, finishing seventh, and lined up again in 2013 as the big favorite for victory, only to be ambushed by Horner, who became the only U.S. rider to win the Vuelta.
Nibali DNF’d in 2015, and finished second to Chris Froome in the 2017 Vuelta. He was 59th in his last Vuelta start in 2018.
His pedigree in grand tour racing makes him stand apart in the peloton as one of the few active riders, along with Froome, who’ve won all three grand tours, winning twice the Giro and once the Tour in 2014 to go along with his Vuelta win.
Nibali: ‘I’m here to try to win a stage and to enjoy racing’
Nibali started his 27th grand tour in the Netherlands, and after three nervous days on the flats, he’s relishing the hard climbing stages looming this week across northern Spain.
“We’ll see how things go. Right now, these are important stages for Miguel Ángel López,” he said. “The level is high at this Vuelta, and it’s going to be a big fight for the GC.
“Favorites? There are many and it’s difficult to say who might win this Vuelta,” Nibali said. “Myself, I won’t be fighting for the overall. I’m here to help the team, maybe win a stage, and enjoy my grand tour.”
There’s no nostalgia for Nibali just yet. That will come at Il Lombardia, his final race as a professional in October in Italy.