Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, centre, is congratulated by teammates as he crosses the finish line to win the 2014 Tour de France after the twenty-first and last stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 137.5 kilometers (85.4 miles) with start in Evry and finish in Paris, France, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Tour de France: Humble, ambitious Nibali had an early cycling dream
First Published Jul 27 2014 07:58 pm • Last Updated Jul 27 2014 10:54 pm

Paris • As a teenager, Vincenzo Nibali uprooted himself from his home in Sicily to head for Tuscany — and a career on a bike.

Off to join a cycling program and move in with another family, Nibali left behind the video and photo shop of his father, a cycling fan, where the boy whiled away many hours watching footage of riders like Italian greats Felice Gimoni, Giuseppi Saronni and Francesco Moser.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

He left behind his grandfather, an Italian who once immigrated to Australia then returned to Sicily to build a big house. Nibali reportedly said he cannot really speak much with his proud grandfather about his Tour de France these days: He cries too much.

"I have made a lot of sacrifices," he said. "I left my family when I was 15 years old."

Those sacrifices paid off in full on Sunday, when the boy from Messina ascended the Tour winner’s podium after an opportunistic, level-headed and savvy ride over three weeks to earn the most prized honor in professional road cycling on the Champs-Elysees.

Humble and serene, Nibali has given Italy what some call the antithesis of its last Tour champion: flashy and flamboyant Marco Pantini — the Pirate — who was celebrated as a national hero after his 1998 victory. Pantani’s life came to a tragic end in 2004 in a drug overdose. Nibali watched and respected his predecessor as a rider.

"I grew up watching Pantani and many other riders on TV," Nibali said at one of the many post-race news conferences he attended during this Tour. "My father was a big fan and used to tape races. He also had documentaries and the one I liked best was of Francesco Moser, because of his innovative style."

The yellow jersey wearer typically speaks to reporters after each stage: Nibali wore it for 19 of the Tour’s 21.

His style is soft-spoken, unflappable — even in the face of inevitable questions about doping, which pummeled this sport’s image long before Lance Armstrong dealt arguably the most devastating blow: His admission that he doped on way to his seven Tour victories, which were later stripped from him.

"Don’t compare me to Armstrong," Nibali said, calling himself a "flag-bearer of anti-doping."


story continues below
story continues below

Unlike the American, who focused primarily on cycling’s biggest show, and generally would dominate the field and then micro-manage his lead, Nibali competes in one-day "classic" races as much as the big events and likes to attack: He’s known as "The Shark of the Strait" of Messina for a reason.

"I always ride in front in the classics, in attack mode, even when I’m sick," he said, pressing on with the Armstrong comparison.

Nibali, refusing to simply protect his yellow jersey, burst ahead to win a tough stage at the Hautacam ski station in the 18th stage, padding his overall lead. It evoked memories of Eddy Merckx — who many call cycling’s greatest-ever rider — who attacked while in yellow too. That was the Belgian "Cannibal" at work.

Nibali has now joined five other elite riders who won all of the sport’s biggest races: the Spanish Vuelta, the Giro d’Italia and the Tour.

French sports daily L’Equipe, quoting Nibali’s mother, reported that in an accident while a youth, when he got a gash over an eye and deep slash in a thigh, young Nibali told the doctor to stitch him up well, "because I’m going to be a bicycle racer," she recalled.

Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Nibali has a contract with his Astana team through 2016 worth nearly 4 million euros ($5.4 million) per year, and would earn an extra 1 million euros ($1.3 million) bonus for winning this Tour.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.