Sharks are incredible creatures. Constantly moving, sharks are silent and fast. They blend with the environment, almost invisible until it is too late. When another creature is in their area of operation, it must be considered prey. Trying to be faster is pointless. Trying to wrestle or fight is useless. Praying not to be seen is the only answer. I personally don’t fear them (okay, I do) . . . mainly because I am never more than mid-thigh deep in salt water. Now, sharks are being discovered in brine and fresh waters in inlets and rivers in the United States. They are adaptable. Containing sharks to a certain area is futile. Sharks average 40-45 teeth, sometimes 7 rows deep and can hear prey up to 3,000 feet away. They are built for destruction. Certain sharks can detect one drop of blood in 25 gallons of water from over a mile away! Fear is a weapon. Fear is good.
This brings me to a special kind of shark: The Shark of the Straight. Vincenzo Nibali dominates his area of operation. No one’s nickname could suit him better. He blends. He’s silent. He’s fast. And riders fear him. Vincenzo Nibali is adaptable. Mountains? Sure. Flats? Of course. Storming? It’s fine. Sunny and hot? No problem. Stoic and calm, Nibali rode this year’s Tour de France with the attitude and power of a champion. He has earned a great deal of respect. It does not matter that the top contenders fell by the wayside. It only affirms the champion for surviving and smelling blood in the water from a long way off.
I am aware that this article will pale in comparison to the hundreds written about Nibali in recent days, but I will only write when I am driven to do so. It is like getting something out of my system. Watching Vincenzo Nibali for the past three weeks was watching a moving master piece. As I thought about the many shark documentaries that air on television, these powerful fish never seem alarmed. They just glide through the water and watch for weaknesses in other fish. Nibali did just that. His presence at the Tour became more and more a dominating shadow. In an ocean of colorful jerseys, he blended and popped out only to attack and recede back into the ocean again. He could be felt, even when he wasn’t seen. The road up to the Hautacam ski area near Argelès-Gazost was the area where the Shark made his presence of intimidation ripple through the waters of the peloton as the champion of the Tour. Race wasn’t over? Yes . . . yes, it was. Congratulations to the Shark of the Straight. Fear is a weapon. Fear is good.