Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli has rejected speculation that he could leave the Kazakh outfit at the end of this season but admitted that he would eventually like to establish a new, Italian-sponsored team.
Reports in the Italian media last month had linked Martinelli with a move to Team Sky’s management for 2015 after noting that he was not driving Astana’s lead car at the Tour de France. Martinelli spent most of Vincenzo Nibali’s victorious Tour sitting in the back seat, while Alexandr Shefer relayed the instructions over the radio.
"Those who said that I will leave because they had seen me sitting in the back seat of a team car are completely on the wrong track," Martinelli told Tuttobici. "I still have a year of my contract left with Astana and I want to have more success with Vincenzo, who will stay for two more years, and with [Fabio] Aru. They are two real jewels and any manager would love to work with them."
Martinelli joined Astana in 2010 after a career spent working at Italian teams such as Carrera, Mercatone Uno, Saeco and Lampre. The 59-year-old is hopeful that Nibali’s Tour victory might help to attract major Italian sponsors back to the sport, and spoke of his desire to have Nibali and Aru together on an Italian team in the future.
"My dream would be to find a big Italian sponsor who would be prepared to invest in two such strong athletes, maybe in 2017," Martinelli said."The Tour 2014 effect can re-launch our cycling, but there are still critical situations at a structural level. It’s heresy that Italy has only one team at WorldTour level [Lampre – ed]. And, for example, we would need to modify the Continental teams, which are the death of our sport as they are currently structured."
For the time being, of course, Nibali and Aru remain at Astana, and Martinelli insisted that the pair could successfully coexist on the same team and even in the same races. After riding in support of Nibali at last year’s Giro d’Italia, Aru followed a different programme in 2014. The 24-year-old finished third at the Giro and will line up as Astana’s leader at the forthcoming Vuelta a España.
"Aru is fortunate that he can ride for Astana and mature in Nibali’s shadow," Martinelli said. "I’ll say more: I’d like to manage the two of them together in a big stage race, where they could certainly coexist without harming one another. They are two intelligent and very rational athletes."
Martinelli did not rule out the prospect of Nibali tackling the Giro-Tour double in 2015 but said that Aru was likely to focus on the Giro once again next season and forgo the Tour. "It’s a difficult double and only a few champions have succeeded, but Vincenzo could do it – it will depend on the routes and on his motivation," he said. "Aru, meanwhile, would do well to concentrate on the Giro. It’s still too soon for the Tour. He’s young and we’ll talk about it again in a couple of years."
Martinelli's son Davide has joined Sky for the remainder of the 2014 season, but for now at least, there are no plans for father and son to work together at the same team. "It’s right that he follows his own path. He’s a strong and motivated young athlete, and he’ll gain excellent experience in one of the strongest teams at world level," Martinelli said. "In any case, there’s time enough that our paths might cross in future."