Vincenzo Nibali returns to Astana for the 2022 season

The 'Shark of Messina' returns to the Kazakhstani team after five seasons away

Vincenzo Nibali
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Vincenzo Nibali is set to return to Kazakhstani team Astana for the 2022 season after five seasons of racing elsewhere.

The team posted a teaser tweet out suggesting that Nibali, otherwise known as 'The Shark of Messina', is returning to the squad, then confirming the news on Instagram. 

The Italian star is now 36-years-old and has spoken multiple times about thoughts on retirement, but first he will return to the team he raced at for four seasons, after he left the folding Liquigas-Cannondale team in 2013.

Nibali said: "I am very happy to come back to team Astana, because for me it is a real family that has given me a lot and together with which I have achieved my greatest successes. I know most of the management and staff of the team, so I will return to the team I know really well."

He added that he doesn't have any specific goals as of yet but he is hoping he can achieve some good results and help the younger riders in the team to achieve great things.

Nibali took three of his four Grand Tour overall victories while racing for Astana with two Giro d'Italia titles as well as his dominant display to win the 2014 Tour de France.

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His last Grand Tour victory was in 2016 at the Giro where he turned around a gap of 4-43 to leader Steven Krujswijk (Jumbo-Visma) on stage 19 of the race after Kruijswijk crashed following the Italian on a descent.

He then took the 44 seconds needed out of Esteban Chaves (BikeExchange) to win the race by 52 seconds. He has not shown that same form in stage races after that, winning just six times since. Albeit, the most recent five were stage wins in all three Grand Tours as well as the Monuments of Il Lombardia and Milan-San Remo.

Nibali left Astana to join the newly formed team of Bahrain-Merida, now Bahrain Victorious. He stayed there for three seasons before moving on again to the American registered Trek-Segafredo as it had an Italian core to the team.

But now he is set to re-join Astana with the return of Alexander Vinokourov as general manager of the team and the co-sponsor of Premier Tech pulling out to join another WorldTour team at the end of the season. Nibali re-signing gives the team a bit of a nostalgic look. 

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Vinokourov said: "We are happy that this return is coming true - He probably spent the best years of his career in our team, and I think it is symbolic that he will finish such a great cycling career in Team Astana."

Astana are losing their main GC focus in the shape of Aleksandr Vlasov to the German team of Bora-Hansgrohe in 2022 and with Jakob Fuglsang also rumoured to be leaving, the leaders role could be vacant. 

Miguel Ángel López, who's contract at Movistar is being terminated on October 1, is also rumoured to be returning to the team after a season away.

"For us, the arrival of Nibali is an opportunity to get and to use all the rich experience a rider of his calibre can offer, to transform and improve the team, which will undergo some great changes in the new season," Vinokourov continued.

"However, I believe that Vincenzo has not said yet his last word in cycling, so in some races we can still rely on him as the leader of the team to achieve new successes together again."

Nibali has signed a one-year deal but it is not yet clear if he will continue racing beyond 2022.  

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