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Vincenzo Nibali‘s contract with Trek-Segafredo may be due to expire at the end of 2021, but that won’t necessarily mark the end of the veteran’s career.
Despite already having two Giro d’Italia victories, a Tour de France and Vuelta a España title, and wins at Milano-Sanremo and Il Lombardia in his illustrious palmarès, the 35-year-old “shark of Messina” is still hungry for a bite more.
Having sacrificed his ambition to race Liège-Bastogne-Liège this fall to allow him to start his ninth Giro, Nibali is placing Italian races at the center of his season. He will resume his 2020 season in the Tuscan dust of Strade Bianche before heading toward Milano-Sanremo’s Via Roma and then the world championships, now likely set to play out on a punchy course in Switzerland this September.
The final fixed goal for Nibali’s 2020 is the Giro d’Italia in October. The Sicilian took second at last year’s race having taken his eye off the ball, paying more attention to a simmering battle with Primož Roglič than watching out for eventual winner Richard Carapaz (Movistar). Adding a third Giro title is now front of mind for Nibali.
“The pink hat-trick? Of course I think about it,” Nibali said Monday.
Before the coronavirus uprooted the season, the Olympic Games were a major focus of Nibali’s 2020. Playing out over a tough mountainous course in Tokyo, the road race played well into Nibali’s aggressive skillset. With the Games now postponed to next summer, Nibali’s Olympic ambitions are on hold, and could mark one of the final races of his career if he hangs up his cleats next winter.
Nibali’s last tilt at Olympic glory on the greasy roads of Rio in 2016 pivoted from a potential gold medal to a broken collarbone when he crashed while in the leading breakaway with just 12 kilometers to go, an incident that still seems to play on his mind.
“And then there’s Tokyo to think about,” Nibali told Il Giornale. “Rio’s Olympic gold went missing after that fall in the final when I was attacking towards the finish line.”
Olympic gold and third pink jersey or not, the end of the 2021 season doesn’t necessarily mark the end for Nibali, who will be 37 in winter 2021.
“If I feel like now, with the same desire and the same enthusiasm I will keep going rather than withdrawing,” he said. He will have to wait a long time before the Olympics come around again after Tokyo, but “the Shark” could keep hunting in other waters some time yet.