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Nibali fights off probing questions and provocations

By:
Stephen Farrand
Published:
July 19, 2014, 19:24 BST,
Updated:
July 19, 2014, 20:26 BST
Edition:
Second Edition Cycling News, Saturday, July 19, 2014
Race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finishes second on stage 14

Race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finishes second on stage 14

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"I don't think I'm any lesser of a rider than Contador and Froome"

Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali received more probing questions, including one about Dr. Michele Ferrari, but he replied in the same way as when he distanced his rivals on the stage 14 climb to Risoul: with poise and control.

After extending his overall lead at the Tour de France on Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde to 4:37 minutes, he seemed more irritated by questions about there being a lack of real rivals and suggestions that his possible victory will be cheapened by the absence of Tinkoff-Saxo’s captain Alberto Contador and Team Sky’s 2013 Tour winner Chris Froome.

Nibali was asked: "Back in 2009 there were accusations about you an Michele Ferrari. Can you look us in the eye and tell us today if you have ever met this guy and where do you think these accusations came from?

After the question was translated into Italian, he looked the Scandinavian journalist who asked the question in the eye from just two metres away and replied.

"No. I've never personally met him," he said in Italian.

"I've heard people talk about him and there was an accusation that I worked with him in the past. They said there were photographs of me with him behind holding a stopwatch. But it's from years ago when (Amore e Vita team owner and anti-doping campaigner) Ivano Fanini said it to an Italian journalist. I started legal action and it went on for a long time but they asked me to end it because they said I was right. They were only suggestions and there weren't any photos. I think it was in 2008 or 2009."

Nibali also hit back at suggestion by Tinkoff-Saxo team owner Oleg Tinkov, that if Contador was still in the race, he and not Nibali, would be in yellow. Contador is now watching the Tour from his home in Madrid after crashing out and fracturing his tibia on stage 10 to La Planche des Belles Filles.

"And if Chris Froome was here too, we'd have fought it out in spectacular style," Nibali said with a hint of irony.

"We all know what Oleg Tinkov is like but I didn't take anything away from anybody. I'd already gained quite a bit of time on the stage on the cobbles. I've also showed that I've got great form and that I came to the Tour to fight with the best."

"I'm sorry that Alberto is not here because he's a great champion. We all know what happened to him but that's cycling as we've said. Crashes can happen to anyone, just like Jakob Fuglsang crashed on a bidon yesterday and hurt himself pretty bad."

Nibali was also asked if the loss of his biggest rivals would somehow cheapen any possible victory. He seemed more irritated about this question than the one about Dr. Michele Ferrari.

"Why cheapened? he asked.

"Last year, I won virtually all the races I rode, where there were often also Alberto Contador and Chris Froome. The only race I didn't ride was the Tour. This year, I've come to the Tour with great form and so I don't think anything is cheapened. I've had a great season in 2013, winning the Giro d'Italia and finishing second at the Vuelta, I don't think I'm any lesser of a rider than Contador and Froome.

"I came to the Tour determined to go very well. If we refer the Dauphiné, the other riders were really strong. But if we do it now, the riders who were stronger than me then, are going a lot slower now."

No gifts at the Tour de France

Lance Armstrong once famously said there was no room in the Tour de France for gifts, and Nibali denied that he had somehow gifted the stage 14 victory to Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka. The Polish rider managed to finish 24 seconds ahead of Nibali at the finish after being in the break of the day.

Nibali said that Majka deserved his moment of glory, explaining his strategy for the second Alpine stage.

"He won it well and so I'm happy for him. When I moved, Majka had about 50 seconds on me and my goal was to gain time on my rivals. I didn’t know if I'd be able to catch him," he said.

“From the team car, I was told: ‘If you still have something in the tank, go for it'. I was looking at gaining some time over Alejandro Valverde. I heard that he cracked after I left him. [Jean-Christophe] Peraud stayed on my wheel and then sprinted. That's cycling I suppose…"

Giro and Tour double in 2015?

Nibali has already hinted that me may try and target both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in 2015. He repeated the idea again in Risoul, boosted by his performance at the Tour de France. However he may also have to share team leadership with Giro d'Italia stage winner and overall podium finisher, Fabio Aru, who is considered the 'next Nibali' in Italy.

"I did them both when I was young but now I'm physically much more mature," he pointed out.

"My challenge for next year might well be to target the Giro and Tour but I yet have to talk to my team. When we finish a season, we restart from scratch. But not excluded that I'll be present at both Giro and Tour next year."

 

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