Vincenzo Nibali carefully chose the time and the place when he announced his retirement from racing during the Giro d’Italia’s visit his native Messina in May, and he won’t be hurried into outlining his plans for the next phase of his cycling life.
“There are a few rumours around the place alright,” Nibali told Cyclingnews on the Vuelta a España. “The intention is to stay in cycling, but for the moment I can’t say any more than that.”
One of those rumours has crystallised into something more tangible following a report in La Gazzetta dello Sport (opens in new tab) linking Nibali with a consultancy role for a proposed new second-tier team based in Switzerland. The team would be managed by Doug Ryder, whose Qhubeka-NextHash WorldTour squad disbanded last winter.
The proposed team has the aim of reaching the WorldTour in 2026, and La Gazzetta reports that Italian riders Matteo Moschetti (currently at Trek-Segafredo), Antonio Puppio (Israel-Premier Tech) and Filippo Conca (Lotto Soudal) are among the possible signings for next season.
According to the newspaper, Nibali would act as a “super-consultant,” sitting on the board as an advisor “with an active role in the selection of riders.” He will also serve as a brand ambassador for the team’s clothing supplier Q36.5.
In the here and now, Nibali is competing in the 27th and final Grand Tour of his career at the Vuelta a España before he finishes out his season on Italian roads, with the grand finale coming at Il Lombardia on October 8.
Nibali signed off on his Giro career with a fine fourth place overall in Verona, though his proximity on GC had the unintended consequence of limiting his ability to chase a valedictory stage win. The Sicilian arrived at this Vuelta with no overall aspirations and the state aim of landing a stage victory, but, by his own admission, he struggled to make an impact in the opening two weeks.
“It’s not going especially well,” Nibali told Cyclingnews. “I’ll be honest, I thought it would go a lot better given how I was going in the races beforehand like Burgos. But I’m going through a bad moment on this Vuelta. I’m suffering and the legs aren’t at their best.”
Nibali endured another difficult moment on Sunday’s mountainous stage 15. Although he made the day’s sizeable early break, he crashed just before the final ascent and reached the summit of Sierra Nevada with his kit bloodied and torn, though without lasting injury.
“I’d still certainly like to aim for a stage if the legs respond well, but at the moment, it’s like this,” Nibali said. “It’s never ‘easy’ to get in the break when you don’t have the best legs, but I’ll hope that a better moment comes.”
Nibali, who won the Vuelta in 2010, placed second overall behind a most surprising Chris Horner three years later and again behind Chris Froome in 2017. On each occasion, he had combined the Vuelta with the Giro, and he noted the man he raced against in Italy in May had endured their own difficulties at this race.
“The Giro d’Italia was very demanding. You can see that from what’s happened to the riders who were thinking of doing both the Giro and the Vuelta for GC, they’ve suffered here a bit,” Nibali said.
“I’m thinking of riders like Jai Hindley, João Almeida and even Richard Carapaz, despite his stage wins. They might have expected to be higher up on GC but in the end, the legs have been lacking a bit for everybody who did the Giro.”
Nibali, for his part, can observe the general classification battle at this Vuelta from a certain distance – “I think Remco just has to try to manage the advantage that he has” – while trying to conjure up one final show on Spanish roads.
“There’s no pressure because the most important appointment was the Giro,” Nibali said. “But if I could find a nice day at the Vuelta, then I’ll certainly try. At the moment I’m not in the right condition, though I hope things change. We’ll close the season at Lombardia and I’ll try to do something there.”