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Marked on the climbs, Nibali gets inventive on descent

  • By Gregor Brown
  • Published Oct. 4, 2015
  • Updated Jan. 18, 2016 at 7:46 PM EDT
Vincenzo Nibali's capacity for what the Italians call "grinta" was on full display on Sunday in Il Lombardia. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

COMO, Italy (VN) — Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) underscored his status as one of cycling’s greats in Il Lombardia on Sunday. Along the lakeside in Como, not only did he win his first monument, he surpassed his grand-tour rivals.
 
Nibali is considered one of the four “bigs” in grand tours with Chris Froome (Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). However, he is the only one to perform so well in one-day monuments, and after Sunday, with a solo attack and ride from the penultimate climb 17.3 kilometers out, he is the only one of the four to win one.
 
Nibali broke away on the Civiglio climb, flew like a bird set free from its cage on the descent, and defended himself over the San Fermo della Battaglia climb and on to the finish line near Como’s main square.
 
“I’ve had this capacity for some time, but I’ve not been able to pull off the win,” Nibali said in a boat that organizer RCS Sport used as a pressroom.
 
“Racing to win grand tours, you lose some of that explosiveness needed for one-day races. In one-day races like this and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, though, you can use your climbing experience and try to win.”
 
Besides the win in Como, Nibali placed third in Milano-Sanremo and second in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège monuments.
 
The last grand-tour cyclist to claim a one-day monument was Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, who counts wins in both the Tour de France and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
 
Nibali is one of only six cyclists to win in all three grand tours, the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and Vuelta a España. The short list includes Contador, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault.
 
The win rounds out his palmarès nicely.
 
It showed that while the 2015 season did not go as he planned, with a fourth place in the Tour and a disqualification in the Vuelta, he is one of the gutsiest cyclists in the peloton. The Italians call it “grinta,” and it was on display in the last kilometers with his Civiglio attacks and torrential pace down the backside.
 
“Was it risky? No, no, maybe just one moment with the motorbike that I came upon, that was it. For the rest, I was in control, I felt fluid, measuring up every trajectory, and trying to take time in every curve,” Nibali said.
 
“That’s what I had to do because everyone was watching me on the climb and we had equal power in our legs, so I tried to invent something on the descent that would win me the race. Am I better than Peter Sagan? I don’t know, but I can tell you that he’s crazier.”
 
Nibali also closed a long dry period for Italian cycling in the five sacred one-day monuments. Not since Damiano Cunego, in the 2008 edition of Il Lombardia, had a cyclist from what many consider the greatest cycling nation won a monument.
 
He will next turn his attention to grand tours. He will attend the 2016 Giro d’Italia presentation on Monday in Milan, a race he is expected to focus on in the following season.
 

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown

Bikes kept Gregor Brown out of trouble growing up in Oklahoma — BMX, freestyle and then watching Greg LeMond's Tour de France wins on CBS television's weekend highlights shows. The drama of the 1998 Tour, however, truly drew him into the fold. With a growing curiosity in European races and lifestyle, he followed his heart and established camp on Lake Como's shores in 2004. Brown has been following the Giro, the Tour and every major race in Europe since 2006. He will tell you it is about the "race within the race" – punching out the news and running to finish – but he loves a proper dinner, un piatto tipico ed un vino della zona.

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