Old dogs, old tricks.
Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali wound back the clocks Thursday with top-10 finishes in Coppa Agnostoni as the peloton’s elder statesmen reminded the pro peloton that while form is transitory, the winning edge is permanent.
The two imminent retirees finished second and eighth, respectively, in the Lissone reduced sprint and flashed a warning of form before they ride into retirement via the “Falling Leaves” of Il Lombardia next weekend.
“I went a bit too far and so someone [race winner Sjoerd Bax] came around me,” Valverde said. “But I am very happy with this second place.”
The pro peloton will look a little different in 2023.
The 42-year-old Valverde and 37-year-old Nibali were leading lights of the Spanish and Italian cyclingsphere for the best part of two decades and dominated the world’s view with victories all across the calendar.
The two grizzled old-timers would likely admit their a half percent from their victory-gobbling 20-something selves.
But their kicking finishes in the eight-rider gallop of Thursday’s Italian classic alongside 39-year-old Domenico Pozzovivo and 35-year-old Riberto Urán proved that Nibali and Valverde aren’t going to end their careers quietly.
“It was nice to see four old men in front. Valverde and I approach Lombardia with the desire to leave a mark. We know it will be difficult, but we want to try,” Nibali said.
One last flourish in the last monument of the season
Il Lombardia will close a chapter in pro cycling.
Valverde and Nibali will take winner’s trophies from five grand tours, seven monuments and countless classics away with them when they cross the Como finishline October 10.
A dark-horse victory next weekend would see either of them finish their careers in the most magical of fashions.
Nibali won Il Lombardia twice, most recently with his flamboyant 12km solo surge in 2017. Valverde hit the podium in the autumn monument three times but carried a crushing level of consistency into his fourties.
Tadej Pogačar, Jonas Vingegaard, João Almeida, Adam Yates and defending champion Tadej Pogačar will give two riders more than a decade their elder some stern opposition in the Lombardy classic next Saturday.
“Since the Vuelta a España it was a long time since I raced, so this was a good test,” Nibali said Thursday.
“Lombardia is the most important appointment of this season finale for me. So far, the legs have responded well, we’ll see more at Tre Valli Varesine [next week, ed]. But we know that in Lombardy there are 60 kilometers more that can make the difference.”
Nibali and Valverde are counting down the bib numbers until they bow out of bike racing.
Movistar’s “Green Bullet” Valverde shoots through Giro dell’Emilia this weekend and Tre Valli Varesine on Tuesday in the hunt for career victory number 134.
The so-called “Shark of Messina” joins him with his Astana-Qazaqstan crew at Varesine before the two old dogs give it one last gasp together at Lombardia.
“We’re going to enjoy until my last day and we are going to give everything to do our best,” Valverde said after he hit the podium Thursday. “Thanks to Movistar and to Enric Mas for their fantastic work.”
Coppa Agnostoni showed there’s still plenty of life in the two old dogs yet. Maybe there’s some hope they can still pull one last trick.