Vincenzo Nibali to make Paris-Roubaix debut in five-monument season
Sicilian veteran to race all five monuments, Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in first season back with Astana-Qazaqstan.
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Vincenzo Nibali is biting at a bulging race calendar in his first year back with old buddies Astana-Qazaqstan.
Nibali sketched out plans to make his Paris-Roubaix debut in a 2022 season that will span all five monuments, the Giro d’Italia, and the Tour de France.
It’s a hugely ambitious schedule that will see the aging “Shark of Messina” roll back the years with the Astana team that took him to two Giro titles, victory at the Tour, and a whole lot more in the middle of last decade.
Nibali is looking to adopt a new free-wheeling approach in his time with Astana-Qazaqstan. This new-look “YOLO” Nibs won’t yet be drawn on where he’s placing his priorities this year.
“I do not want to live the season with the pressure to say what will be my main objective, and to ride with this obsession,” Nibali said in a recent press conference.
“There are certainly objectives that I do not want to miss and races in which I want to be a player. I want to do this season without any pressure, I just want to enjoy it and try to get some good results … We’ll decide later which races to choose to focus on, either the classics or the grand tours.”
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Nibali will form the heart of a rebooted Astana-Qazaqstan team in 2022.
The exit of co-title sponsor PremierTech coincides with a total reshuffle of the roster in the Kazakh squad. Former captains Aleksandr Vlasov and Jakob Fuglsang are both out, making way for Nibali and the returning Miguel Ángel López.
Nibali is expected to race alongside López in both the Giro and the Tour, and will link up with another new recruit, rowdy rouleur Gianni Moscon, in the classics.
Astana director and Nibali’s long-time mentor Giuseppe Martinelli hopes the 37-year-old’s off-season transfer and a change of outlook will help boost his mojo after two barren years with Trek-Segafredo.
“My wish is that he [Nibali] can race freely next year, without having to worry about the result,” Martinelli recently told Tuttobici.
“When Nibali races, everyone always expects him to compete for the standings. But at Astana he finds a staff with which he has won a lot and a place where he feels at home. That convinced him to move. He wants to go back to the days when he was good.”
A monument sweep? Don’t count on it – but don’t count it out
As one of the most “complete” riders in the pro peloton, Nibali’s palmarès already boasts two monuments and four grand tour titles. He’s already won Lombardia twice, and he claimed Milano-Sanremo in 2018.
With a long streak of near-misses at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Nibali’s new interest in Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders opens a whole new world of speculation.
Could “The Shark” take an unlikely late-career monument sweep and beat Philippe Gilbert to the task?
Also read: Ride of the year: Nibali conquers the cobbles
Nibali was in the mix when he finished 24th on debut in Flanders in 2018, and lit up the pavé during the cobblestone stage of the 2014 Tour. He finished third in the Arenberg Porte du Hainaut that day in a stage that helped propel him toward final victory in Paris.
And who finished fourth and fifth behind Nibali on the rainslicked stones of Arenberg? Cobblestone kings Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara, that’s who.
Nibali has got the skills, and he’s got a new “now or never” mindset as he enters one of his final years in the peloton.
Bagging all five monuments would be some way to ride into retirement. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.
Nibali’s provisional program for 2022:
- Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (February 2-6)
- Tirreno-Adriatico (March 7-13)
- Milan-San Remo (March 19)
- Tour of Flanders (April 3)
- Paris-Roubaix (April 17)
- Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April 24)
- Giro d’Italia (May 6-29)
- Tour de France (July 1-24)
- Il Lombardia (October 8)