Livin' the Dream

Livin' the Dream

About Me

I am a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, majoring in journalism. My passion is cycling. I am a category 4 bike racer and my absolute dream would be to turn pro one day. My more realistic goal is to become a journalist for the sport of cycling and eventually move on to become a broadcaster for the sport.

Friday, July 18, 2014

"The Shark of Messina"

            Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is a veteran Grand Tour rider. Currently, he is well on his way to joining an elite class of professional bike racers who have won all three Grand Tours in their career, the Vuelta a Espana, the Giro d’Italia, and the Tour de France. The list includes Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and most recently Alberto Contador. Nibali knows though, not to get too complacent because anything can happen and the Tour is always far from over until the riders hit the famed cobblestones of the Champs-Elysees.

Born to Race Bikes

            Like many storied professional bike racers Vincenzo Nibali began racing bikes at a very young age. At just 16 years old he decided to go all in on the dream of racing professionally and moved away from his family in Messina to Tuscany, where he then lived with his director sportif. It became apparent he would do big things in cycling after getting on the podium at the World Championships both as a junior and an Under 23 rider.

            Nibali signed his first pro contract for the 2005 season with Fassa Bortolo. He was just 21 years old. There he met another young rider who was soon to be a legend—Fabian Cancellara. Nibali and Cancellara were as different as two riders could be. Nibali was a skinny climber and Cancellara a hard-man of the cobbles. Nibali would ride for Fassa Bortolo for just one year before moving to Team Liquigas. Liquigas would be where Nibali would make a name for himself.

Breakout Year

            After steadily getting faster and faster Nibali broke out in 2009 with a couple of wins in some 2.1 rated UCI events. In fact, 2009 would just be the stepping-stone in what would be a magical year for Nibali in 2010. That year started perfectly for Nibali, with him winning the opening Tour de San Luis. He would hold his form all the way to the Giro d’Italia, eventually finishing 3rd overall after helping his teammate Ivan Basso to the win. He also wore the famed Maglia Rosa after his team won the stage 4 team time trial. For any Italian the chance to wear the pink jersey is always special. Nibali wasn’t happy with the  3rd step on the podium though, he wanted the top step. He then took some time off before competing at the Vuelta a Espana that Fall. Liquigas nominated Nibali as there team leader and he would not disappoint. Nibali brought the red jersey home as overall winner without winning a stage. The man from Messina, Italy let his legs do the talking and won with quiet consistency rather than the panache you see from most Grand Tour winners. As a Grand Tour winner Nibali’s career took an evitable turn.

Backing it Up

            By 2011 Nibali was a star in Italy. He had become Italy’s newest Grand Tour winner, but could he win his home race the Giro d’Italia? Nibali was given the green light to go all in for pink by his Liquigas team. He battled on through the race never giving up, but ultimately finished a painstaking third overall (later moving up to 2nd after the disqualification of Contador). It was a great result and proved that his win at the Vuelta was not a one-time deal. Vincenzo Nibali was here to stay and compete to win Grand Tours. He would disappoint later that year, finishing 7th overall in his title defense at the Vuelta

Italian Greatness

            In 2012, Vincenzo Nibali focused on the Tour de France, but ran into the Sky duo of Froome and eventual winner Bradley Wiggins. Nibali would finish on the podium in third, but everyone had seen “The Shark” in Nibali. He attacked repeatedly and stage after stage, trying to break the stranglehold of Team Sky. Nibali had lost, but he had shown everyone he was a fighter.

            The year 2013 marked where Vincenzo Nibali would become the center of Italian cycling. He captured the Maglia Rosa with an epic ride through France, dominating the entire race and never showing weakness. His win atop the Tres Cime di Lavaredo in blizzard-like conditions is a staple of his character. He always races hard no matter whether he is way behind or way ahead. When the race finished Nibali was on top of the world. He had achieved the dream of every Italian cyclist. He won the Giro d’Italia.

“The Shark”

Vincenzo Nibali is a quiet man. He does not make any brash comments in the press or feel a need to voice his opinion. Nibali is humble, but also quite confident. He believes in himself and his team. He just prefers to let his legs do the talking.

Nibali was very much an afterthought entering this year’s Tour de France. He did not seem to have the form that he had when he won the Giro, and Alberto Contador and Chris Froome just looked to be on another level. In the press Nibali was honest about his chances to win the Tour, but deep down there was a fire in his belly. He was a proven Grand Tour winner, not an “afterthought”. In classic Vincenzo Nibali fashion he told everyone how he felt on Stage 5, through his legs. Alberto Contador and Chris Froome had each raced over cobblestones in their careers, Nibali had not. Stage 5 was showed why Nibali was not an “afterthought” at this year’s Tour. Riding in the yellow jersey, Nibali not only sped away from his GC contenders, but also away from legendary Paris-Roubaix winner Fabian Cancellara.  On a day when Froome abandoned the Tour and the skies were dark and gloomy, one man shinned brightly, decked out in yellow.

Everyone says the Tour de France is never over till it’s over, but barring disaster this one is. Out of all the carnage of the first week including the abandonment of Alberto Contador, and over the first couple of mountain stages, Vincenzo Nibali has emerged invincible. You will never hear him say that though. Nibali will just continue to pedal on and let his legs do the talking.

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