Vincenzo Nibali, Mr Tranquillo.
Okay, new full time job killed the blog for a few weeks — RIGHT AT TOUR TIME — but we’ve got our priorities back in place. Unpaid cycling blog first, actual career with paycheck, second.
So back to France, le Grand Shindig and the man of the match Vincenzo Nibali. If you were to pick one rider who epitomizes the no-stress confidence and even-keel calm of a GC champion, it would be the Shark from Messina — although Shark isn’t exactly a tranquillo image.
Nibali seems impervious to miserable weather, snow, wind, rain, dangerous roads, technical descents, unexplained dips in form, insults from his own Astana team manager Alexander Vinokorov, crashes by valuable teammates and disrespect from journalists who ignored him in talking up the Froome-Contador showdown.
He never panics, never raises his voice, never has a freak-out moment, doesn’t throw his bike, doesn’t make excuses, doesn’t complain about the weather, doesn’t waste his time reading stupid cycling blogs. The man is a rock, a shark-rock, a zen shark — you get where I’m headed.
We saw skinny little Chris Froome destroyed by the rain-slick roads and cobblestones on stage five’s mini-Roubaix. We saw Alberto Contador crash out of the race while, according to several other riders, taking too many risks and having a snack at high speed on a descent. Meanwhile, Vincenzo motors on, seemingly oblivious to the miserable weather and mayhem all around him.
Andrew Talansky pulls the plug after four crashes and a lantern rouge finish on stage 10. Hard luck Andy Schleck, once a massive star and now domestique for his brother Frank, damages his right knee and abandons. All the while, Mr. Tranquillo continues to pad his lead and extend his dominance. Two stage wins and 4:37 on his nearest rival Alejandro Valverde.
With the GC battle all but decided, the press conferences have turned into the now ritual doping inquisition. Like everything else, Nibali doesn’t bat an eye or lose his cool. Cobblestones, slick roads, hard rains, character attacks, whatever.
The worse the weather, the better he rides, the more treacherous the roads, the more impressive his bike handling, the more pressure and stress applied, the cooler he acts.
Nibali won the 2013 Giro d’Italia in what can only be described as horrific weather conditions. If memory serves, he beat Chris Froome in Tirreno-Adriatico when the weather turned awful. Give him a scary mountain descent with rain and snow and he will drop everyone and win solo.
Does anyone really imagine that Alejandro Valverde is going to worry Nibali too much? It’s been a crazy, dangerous, unpredictable and often heartbreaking tour for many, but Mr. Tranquillo has it all under control.