Vincenzo Nibali has voiced his support for the environmental movement, saying being a professional bike racer has provided him with the perfect vantage point to gain perspective on the issue.
“I feel like a sailor pedalling for 35,000 kilometres a year,” Nibali told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in an illuminating and expansive interview. “On the bike I see the world increasingly suffocated by plastic. I’m with the guys who demonstrate for the environment because no one but them seems to care about our destiny.
>> Struggling to get to the shops? Try 6 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £6 delivered to your door <<
“The bike is a perfect observatory of traffic and pollution: the situation is dramatic. You find plastic everywhere. Politics should impose different rules on producers,” he said.
Nibali will ride his final race of 2019, also his last for Bahrain-Merida ahead of his move to Trek-Segafredo in 2020, at Il Lombardia on Saturday October 12. While the Italian will be targeting a third win in the race, he says when it comes to politics he prefers a less combative approach.
“Importantly I do not take sides,” Nibali said, “but I think a politician – like an athlete – cannot face decisive challenges full of hatred for his opponents and looking for a fight. They are for those who do politics respecting their neighbour and without shouting.”
The 34-year-old began his professional career in 2005 with Fassa Bortolo before moving on to Liquigas and Astana, where he won four Grand Tours over the years. His journey began five years earlier in 2000 after leaving the island of Sicily aged 16 to pursue his dream of turning pro.
He says this experience reminded him of his grandfather, who also emigrated for work, albeit less glamorous employment. Nibali points to this as instilling in him a duty of care for immigrants, especially giving the European migrant crisis that has seen many lose their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean near to his home.
“My [home of] Sicily is a land of emigrants, I left the island at 16 to be a cyclist and my grandfather left by boat for Australia where he worked for five years as a bricklayer to build a house in Messina. They [governments] are to welcome those who run away from war or starvation, I wonder if to help these people we should risk their life on the boats and why Europe does not give us a hand.”
Nibali has signed a two-year contract with Trek-Segafredo, but at 34 years old questions about his eventual retirement will only start to increase in number. The Italian says he does not wish to pursue a role as a sports director of a team, and instead his retirement dream will remain a secret for the time-being.
“I do not know,” Nibali said. “Not the sports director: I have neither the qualities nor the character…I have a secret dream, but I don’t say it.”