What a difference a year makes. When Vincenzo Nibali placed a low-key 20th at last season’s Tour of Oman, he did so labouring under the yoke of being the defending Tour de France champion and operating against the backdrop of Astana’s possible exclusion from the WorldTour.
Twelve months on, Nibali returned to Oman to claim final overall victory after racing with an effervescence unseen at this early juncture since at least 2012. Just as importantly, perhaps, there has been a lightness to the atmosphere around Nibali this week that contrasts favourably with the furrowed brows that seemed the default expression in the Astana camp for so much of 2015.
Ahead of Sunday’s final stage, as Nibali joined his Astana teammates for a pre-race coffee on the terrace of the Shakespeare and Company café, he looked to all the world like a man setting out on a relaxed club run as they joked and enjoyed the morning sunshine.
“I can see he’s a lot more tranquil and serene this year,” Nibali’s roommate Valerio Agnoli told Cyclingnews. “We’ve got a good working group around him, and it’s not just about the racing, we’re enjoying ourselves too.”
Nibali finished safely in the main peloton on Matrah Corniche on Sunday afternoon to seal final overall victory, 15 seconds clear of Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and 24 ahead of his Astana teammate Jakob Fuglsang, who rode so impressively in his service on Green Mountain on Friday.
“The most important work in these last two days was done by the team, and we’re really happy with because it shows we’ve all started the year very strongly,” Nibali said after descending from the podium.
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