Francesco Moser has cast a critical eye over Italian cycling at the end of a fourth successive season without a victory in a monument classic, declaring that Vincenzo Nibali is not a champion and bemoaning the scarcity of leaders in the peloton.
In an interview with the Gazzettino newspaper, the triple Paris-Roubaix and 1984 Giro d'Italia winner said that he had been underwhelmed by Nibali’s performance at the Tour de France, where he finished third between the Sky pair of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
“He made a couple of little attacks and then he stopped… Not much for the strongest to be worried about,” Moser said of Nibali’s showing in July. “Nibali is only a good rider, not a champion. You need a lot more to merit that title. He tries and he tries, but he’s always lacking something.”
Nibali will complete a lucrative switch from Liquigas-Cannondale to Astana during at the end of the season, but Moser maintained that the Sicilian’s status owed more to the paucity of the current peloton than his own talents.
“Lucky for him. In my time, riders were stronger and earned less. People are getting excited about very little because they have very little to get excited about,” said Moser, who was prepared by controversial doctor Francesco Conconi to break the hour record in Mexico in 1984.
Nibali was the leader of the Italian team at the world championships in Valkenburg, where for the second year in a row, the squadra azzurra’s best finisher came home in a lowly 13th place.
“Unfortunately, we have too many so-so riders and no element of leadership, so our rivals dominate and win,” Moser said. “I don’t feel I can criticise [Italian coach] Paolo Bettini, because the material at his disposition was scarce. Unfortunately, there are no Mosers or Bettinis out there anymore.”
The next Moser
There is a Moser in the peloton - Francesco's nephew, Moreno Moser, who rides for Liquigas-Cannondale. He was part of the Italian team in Valkenburg. The neo-professional has earned many plaudits for a debut campaign that saw him win the Trofeo Laigueglia and the Tour of Poland, but his uncle was cautious about the expectations.
“You have to wait a couple of years before saying whether he will become a great rider,” Moser said. “But I am happy to see another Moser among the protagonists of the peloton.”
Moser was also critical of Italian cycling’s former great hope Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD), who fell short in the classics and could only manage sixth at the Giro d’Italia in 2012. “He gave the impression of being up there, but he never followed through. Now, he’s in decline,” said Moser.
Beyond Italian cycling, Moser was lukewarm about the achievements of Bradley Wiggins in 2012, maintaining that the Sky team was “without doubt” stronger than its leader.
“The Englishman had a team at his disposition that did everything he wanted, while he made his qualities as a time triallist tell,” Moser said.
“He won the yellow jersey because the Tour was designed for his characteristics. I don’t think he would win again with a different route. To me, the only real great seems to be Contador.”