Giro d'Italia 2021 news: Vincenzo Nibali could miss his final shot at third maglia rosa after injury
Vincenzo Nibali is no spring chicken and the last thing his attempt to become the oldest ever Giro winner needed was a broken wrist. The race is now on for the Shark of Messina to recover in time for Il Giro next month. If he does not start, it will be left to the likes of Giulio Ciccone to carry the hopes of Trek-Segafredo and the home nation's fervent fans, the tifosi.
Team Trek rider Italy's Vincenzo Nibali looks on before the start of 13th stage of the Giro d'Italia 2020 cycling race, a 192-kilometers route between Cervia and Monselice, on October 16, 2020.
Despite the swiftness with which this treatment has been arranged it still seems unlikely Nibali will be back fit in time for Il Giro this year. This comes as a cruel blow to Nibali, to his team Trek-Segafredo, and to the hopes of the tifosi dreaming of a home winner in Il Giro this year.
At 36, Nibali is running out of chances to win a third Giro crown – and this setback means we will probably be waiting until at least 2022 before we see ‘the Shark of Messina’ try again. By then he’ll be a full three years more senior than the oldest ever Giro winner, Fiorenzo Magni, who took the maglia rosa in 1955 aged 34 years and 180 days.
2021’s course is one that suits the talents of Nibali, making this injury blow all the more painful. There is less TTing than we’ve seen in the past, plus plenty of high-altitude action and a really difficult final week. Nibali, of course, is known for his ‘magical third week’ when, at the business end of a Grand Tour, he seems to get stronger and stronger while his rivals are weakening.
Of course, it’s not impossible for Nibali to be competitive at the Giro this year. We saw Mat Hayman win Paris-Roubaix after training for the monument almost exclusively on Zwift with his arm propped up on a step-ladder, after all.
That being said, it’s an extremely long shot, and it leaves Trek-Segafredo with a difficult choice to make about how they approach Il Giro. Do they keep the GC as their goal and switch to Giulio Ciccone or even Bauke Mollema as their leader, or place a new focus on stage-hunting? Gianluca Brambilla has looked in great form this season so far in a resurgence of the sort of performances that saw him take a Giro stage in 2016 (the same year Nibali won his second maglia rosa) and could easily bring home a stage or two if let off the leash.
If the team decides to throw all its resources behind Ciccone, then Italy might yet get its home challenger for the title. Ciccone is by no means as feted as Nibali, but he has talent and can climb with the best of them on his day. Quite whether he can maintain his best for 21 consecutive days has never been truly tested – but in 2019 he won the mountains classification at Il Giro, not to mention securing fifth in the best young rider competition and a top 20 placing on the GC (albeit 27 minutes down on eventual winner Richard Carapaz).
Outside of Trek, there are not many other glimmers of hope for Italian success in the GC at Il Giro. Damiano Caruso is a seasoned campaigner but well past his best, while Domenico Pozzovivo can probably also say his days of seriously challenging for the maglia rosa are behind him.
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Filippo Ganna is perhaps the out-and-out most talented home rider on the startlist but a lot would have to go wrong for his team’s designated leaders, Egan Bernal and Richard Carapaz, before he were allowed off the leash to fight for the overall. He also claims not to be too interested in stage racing titles, preferring, he says, to go on hoovering up stage wins – be that in the ITT, a discipline in which he is the world champion, or opportunistically taking victories from the break as he did in Il Giro 2020.
The race is on now for Nibali to get ready for the Giro, to rescue his hopes of a third title and the dreams of the tifosi too.