I would like to take this time tell you why I love Vincenzo Nibali (or Nibbles, as I like to call him). There are two reasons I like him. First, he’s slightly nerdy and quiet. I like that.
But the main reason I like him is because of his tenacity and commitment while climbing. He’s not an explosive climber, he’s more of slow and steady climber. He knows exactly how far he can push himself and hold himself there, without blowing up. I watched the Veulta last year because it felt like something I needed to do as a cycling fan, and the Schleckettes were riding. It was the first stage race I watched where there were real racing tactics to follow- during the Tour, I was just interested in Andy Schleck. The Scleckettes were disappointing, but I found someone new to be interested in.
Watching Nibali climb the Bola del Monda during stage 20 of the Veulta sealed his place in my heart. Ezequiel Mosquera was 41” down on Nibali and had to attack on this stage if he wanted any chance at taking the red jersey. When Mosquera went, Nibali was right on his wheel. Mosquera was eventually able to pull away and got about 20” on Nibali. But every time it looked like Nibali was cooked, every time it looked like he could go no further, he would get out of his saddle and power back up. He pulled back the gap little by little, then, in the last 100 meters, who do we see come up beside Mosquera? Nibali! Not only did he make up the 20” deficit, but he almost beat Mosquera! It was an amazing climb and the first time I had really seen a rider in complete misery pull through and come out on top.
Today Nibali did the same thing. When Contador attacked, he didn’t follow right away, but attacked with his slow and steady pace and bridged up to Contador. When Contador attacked him and drew away, he didn’t panic, but kept going. Even though he couldn’t catch him, he still only finished a few seconds behind. Nibali won’t be able to make the 3’09″ time difference between him and Contador, but I was so happy to see him try today. He has now been defeated with dignity.