Times are changing for Italian cycling, and Vincenzo Nibali is struggling to keep up.
After an incident-riddled Giro d’Italia, the Sicilian veteran has been omitted from Italy’s provisional Olympic squad as his career clock ticks rapidly toward zero and his nation looks for new heroes.
“I want to bring the best line-up to the Games, like in Rio 2016,” national coach Davide Cassani told Gazzetta dello Sport this week.
“In Brazil, Nibali came from the victory of the Giro, now unfortunately his situation is much more delicate for no fault of his own. But Vincenzo is a heritage of our cycling. Let’s see how he is in the next few days and what feelings he may have.”
Oggi ho solo una cosa da dire: grazie 🙏
A tutti coloro che lungo il percorso, in salita e all’arrivo, mi hanno incitato e applaudito. E’ stata una bella emozione, di quelle che raddrizzano anche la giornata piú storta pic.twitter.com/xYVecGDUvS
— Vincenzo Nibali (@vincenzonibali) May 26, 2021
Nibali was left swimming upstream at last month’s Giro after a fractured wrist just weeks before the Grande Partenza put him on the back foot before he’d even got started.
Also read: Nibali scraps GC ambition mid-Gir0
For 36-year-old Nibali, the mountainous Tokyo road race offers him a strong – and final – chance at Olympic glory after he came to within a perilous descent of the podium at Rio. And a non-selection for Tokyo could mean more than just a missed medal – it would speed the celebrated veteran’s quiet exit from his nation’s consciousness.
Rather than Nibali, the tifosi will be pinning their hopes on their A-lister at the summer Games. Filippo Ganna is red-hot favorite for time trial and track glory in Tokyo and coming off the back of a Giro that cemented his place as the successor to Nibali’s crown.
Ganna was all over last month’s Giro, taking two stage wins and being one of the major players in Egan Bernal’s ride to the pink jersey. For three weeks, Italy hit full “Gannamania,” as his massive motor and boy-next-door charm became the talk of the tifosi and plucked the heartstrings of nonnas through his nation.
Ganna is likely to ride alongside Italy’s new wave of talent in Tokyo as the likes of Nibali and Domenico Pozzovivo fade from view.
Cassani has also shortlisted Giulio Ciccone, Davide Formolo, Gianni Moscon and Giro d’Italia stars Damiano Caruso and Alberto Bettiol for next month’s Games, with a final decision to come after the Italian championships June 20.
Nibali sank to 18th place in last month’s corsa rosa, his worst result since making his debut at the race in 2007. It was only stubbornness and the creeping awareness of his waning career that saw the 36-year-old make Milano.
“I don’t have many seasons left, so I think it was right to honor the Giro,” Nibali said about his decision to even finish a horror home tour.
“The Giro has given me a lot. I won it twice and the joy was truly immense. The public was stratospheric then, and they showed it again this year, even though I wasn’t going well. There’s nothing more to say about that.”
With Nibali out of contract this winter and his future still to be decided, he may not even race beyond 2021. Seeing out what could be his final season with a snub from the race he has long set his heart on would mark a sad shuffle from his nation’s attention.
For many sharks, stopping swimming can bring death.
Messina’s own predator needs to find some current, fast.
A great morale boost ahead of a key stage 💗 pic.twitter.com/gAdrV67YdD
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) May 29, 2021