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Vincenzo Nibali interview

Vincenzo Nibali yellow jersey
Josh Cunningham
23 Apr 2015

Fresh from winning the 2014 Tour de France, Vincenzo Nibali tells us about training, winning and his heroes growing up.

Cyclist: How does it feel to have won the Tour de France?

Vincenzo Nibali: There are no words to describe it, to be honest. Standing on the podium on the Champs Élysées gave me a feeling that I just can’t describe. Winning the Tour is like
a dream come true.

Cyc: There must have been some celebrations last night [after the Champs Élysées stage]. What can you tell us?

VN: Yeah, we finished very late last night. We celebrated the victory with the team – making some celebratory toasts, eating some cake, taking some photos. Waking up this morning and reading the newspapers has been quite emotional.

Cyc: Was there a moment in particular where you think you won the Tour?

VN: From start to finish, this was a difficult Tour. But I think rather than a specific moment, it was more a case of overcoming the possible chances to lose it, and there were lots of those.

Cyc: It seemed you wanted to take time out of your rivals at every opportunity. Do you think attack is the best form of defence?

VN: Absolutely. For me, the best way to defend my lead was to attack and make it bigger – especially when I gained two and a half minutes on the Roubaix stage. It was a difficult stage to read, but proved to be a very important day at the Tour.

Cyc: You have a reputation as a good descender and bike handler. Are you ever worried in situations where those skills are required?

VN: It can be a bit worrying sometimes. I’m tenser, especially with wet roads, but I just pay more attention. Riding a bike well is just a matter of skill, and the biggest dangers are other riders; when they brake, or when they slip. This is all part of the game though. It’s happened to me before, too. 

Vincenzo Nibali yellow jersey

Cyc: Are you disappointed that there was no Froome or Contador to compete with in the end?

VN: No, not at all. Every race has its own story, and this is just the way it has gone this time, but I do hope that in the future there will be the opportunity to race with them at the Tour again.

Cyc: And what about Team Sky? Did their lack of visibility change the race?

VN: Team Sky were definitely not as strong as they have been in the past, but I don’t think the race changed much without them, and we [Astana] had a good race.

Cyc: You’re only the sixth person in history to win all three Grand Tours. Which one are you happiest with?

VN: As an Italian, I would say the Giro d’Italia. But as a cyclist, it has to be the Tour de France.

Cyc: So, your nickname: Why ‘The Shark of Messina’?

VN: [Smiles] It’s just always been my nickname. I like it.

Cyc: As a young man, did you find cycling, or did cycling find you?

VN: I suppose we found each other. Ever since I was a kid I loved cycling. My dad did a bit of racing as an amateur, and he was winning and enjoying himself. I tried a few sports, like football, running, but the one that gave me the most freedom, determination and a sense of competition was cycling.

Cyc: Do you remember your very first race?

VN: Yes, I was 13. I didn’t sleep the night before, but I finished second. There was a corner just before the finish line and I went into it second. I tried to catch up with the guy in front, but…

Cyc: So what would the 13-year-old Vincenzo say about you now?

VN: I don’t know. But during that race a man was speaking to my dad, and discovered it was my first race. He apparently said, ‘This kid will be a success,’ but I was too young to understand. I still have a photo of the two of us together.

Cyc: Who were your heroes when you were growing up?

VN: I really admired Francesco Moser. When I was younger my dad and I watched recordings of the Giro, Paris-Roubaix, Milano-San Remo. We watched Giuseppe Saronni and Eddy Merckx, but my favourite was Moser. Then when I was a little older, the unforgettable Marco Pantani caught my attention.

Cyc: You’re the first Italian winner of the Tour since Pantani, and your victory comes 10 years after his death. But we heard somewhere that you plan to give a yellow jersey to his mother?

VN: Yeah, winning the Tour 16 years after Pantani did in 1998 is a massive honour. I still can’t believe it’s happened, actually. But yes, Pantani’s mother gave me his own yellow jersey before the Tour, and I’ll be delighted when I can give mine to her.

Cyc: Where’s your favourite place to train?

VN: I would have to say, with the mountains and the climate, my hometown in Sicily – even though I don’t go there much these days.

Cyc: And finally, what is your favorite memory from the Tour de France?

VN: I think it has to be the stage I won in Sheffield. It was a great stage, and it was the first time that I pulled on the yellow jersey. That was an incredible feeling, one that only few people can feel, so it has to be my favourite for sure. 

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