Mixed messages from Astana over Nibali's 2016 goals

Vinokourov says Nibali to target Giro d’Italia, Aru to lead at Tour de France, but Nibali leaves it open

Vincenzo Nibali batted away questions about his Grand Tour goals for 2016 during Astana’s first press conference of the winter at their get together in Tuscany, claiming his race programme is still to be decided. However, team manager Alexandre Vinokourov quickly put an end to any risk of a power struggle over team leadership by confirming that Nibali will target the Giro d’Italia and Fabio Aru will be team leader at the Tour de France.

Nibali wants to target the road race at the Rio Olympic Games next summer and so could ride the Tour de France alongside Aru. He seems torn between which goal to focus on.

“I’ve never confirmed my goals and I don’t understand all the questions about my race programme,” he said when asked about the Giro d’Italia. “For sure the decision will be made by the team, not only considering personal objectives. I don’t deny I like the Giro and the Tour routes, so I’d like to be at by best for both of them. The team will indicate if I ride one or two Grand Tours before the Olympics. We haven’t decided anything yet.”

However, Vinokourov made it clear that the Sicilian will not be team leader in July when speaking to Cyclingnews and Het Laaste Nieuws.

“It’s already decided. We’ll talk more during the training camp in Calpe but things are clear: Vincenzo will be for the Giro and Aru for the Tour," he said.

"I think Vincenzo could also ride the Tour. I think Fabio’s got to ride the Tour to see how good he is and how far he can go. We’ll decide our final strategy after the Giro. It depends if he [Nibali] wins it. But for now it’s Vincenzo for the Giro and Fabio for the Tour. For now things are clear but of course they could change during the race.”

Aru and Nibali were divided by directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli during the press conference. They appear to get on but are now considered on equal terms as team leaders at Astana.

“Fabio is aiming for the Tour and and so has a easier route to get there,” Martinelli said, refusing to take sides between his two team leaders and adding to the confusion about Nibali’s goals.

“For the Tour you have to follow the usual road. Vincenzo has freedom to decide. He has won all 3 Grand Tours but has had good and bad years. I think he has more time to decide what he does and so it’s right he takes his time.”

Aru was much clearer, confirming he is ready to make his debut at the Tour de France and that he will not ride the Giro d’Italia.

“It’ll be a new adventure for me and so I’m going to keep my feet on the ground as I’ve always done and as is right to do,” Aru said. “I’ve raced very little in France. I’ve done Paris-Nice and a few stages of the Giro del Valle d’Aosta but that’s it. Having Vincenzo as a teammate could be a good thing. We’ve been together for a few years now and I’ve learnt a lot from him. He won the Tour and that counts for a lot. It’s all new for me.”

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