Grand Tour great Vincenzo Nibali sits in at number eight on our 100 Best Road Riders of 2016 list
8. Vincenzo Nibali
31, Italy, Astana
2016 wins: 4
There was a sense of inevitability with Vincenzo Nibali’s Giro d’Italia win in May. The three-time Grand Tour winner looked pretty ropey over the course of the first two weeks of the race, but still hovered around fifth place.
He was dropped by Steven Kruijswijk and Esteban Chaves on the short stage 16, leaving him nearly five minutes down in the general classification to the surprise Dutch leader.
But even with that deficit you knew you couldn’t write ‘The Shark’ off. Nibali attacked after the snow-capped Colle dell’Agnello on stage 19, leaving Kruijswijk needing to take risks to catch one of the peloton’s best descenders.
Unfortunately for fans of the underdog, one of Kruijswijk’s risks backfired spectacularly as the LottoNL-Jumbo rider crashed head first into a snow bank at the side of the road in the early stages of the descent.
Nibali didn’t slow up as the pink jersey nursed himself back onto his broken bike, with Kruijswijk eventually losing five minutes to the Italian by the summit finish in Risoul.
However, Nibali still sat 45 seconds behind Esteban Chaves, who looked set to win his first Grand Tour as long as he didn’t crack on the final mountain stage.
Crack he did, and an inspired Nibali took the top spot on the podium by 52 seconds in one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent history.
The Giro win was the highlight of an otherwise unremarkable year for the 32-year-old. He won the Tour of Oman in February and finished sixth in Tirreno-Adriatico, but failed to break the top 10 in any other stage race he entered.
Additionally, his 51st place finish at Liège-Bastogne-Liège was a disappointment and he saw an Olympic gold medal slip away when he was wiped out by Sergio Henao on a tricky descent while leading the race.