Martinelli says change of role at Astana was his idea

"Vinokourov did me a favour"

Giuseppe Martinelli has said that it was his own decision to step down from the position of team manager at Astana in order to focus fully on his duties as a directeur sportif.

The change was confirmed at the Astana team presentation in Kazakhstan last week, with Dimitry Fofonov promoted to the role of manager in Martinelli's place.

Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, Martinelli described his change of status as a relief rather than as a demotion, explaining that he had asked general manager Alexandre Vinokourov for a change in his role during the Tour de France.

"I was too tired, everything at an organisational level touched upon me, from the hotels to relations with the Kazakh federation, which, because of the language, wasn't that easy," said Martinelli, who has been with Astana since 2010.

"I spoke about it with Vinokourov at the Tour, and asked him to please give my role to someone else. I just wanted to be a directeur sportif, without having to occupy myself with all of the bureaucracy. We spoke about it again at the Vuelta and he told me that it would be done."

The Astana riders and staff were informed of the decision at the team's first winter training camp in Montecatini Terme, while the news was made public during the team presentation in the Kazakh capital at the weekend. "For me it changes nothing," Matinelli said. "I just have fewer problems."

Martinelli, who recently signed a contract for 2016 with Astana, will work most closely with Fabio Aru in the new campaign, heading a core of riders that will ride in the service of the Sardinian as he prepares for his debut Tour de France. According to Gazzetta, Vincenzo Nibali will be followed primarily by Alexandre Shefer as he builds towards the Giro d'Italia.

Nibali has been widely linked with a move to Trek Factory Racing in 2017, a rumour that will only gain currency with the arrival of Segafredo as a sponsor. Asked about the prospects of moving with the Sicilian, Martinelli said: "I don't know. I'd like it but I'm good here."

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