Vincenzo Nibali has hit back at his critics after he was expelled from the Vuelta a España for taking a long tow from a team car, suggesting he has been unfairly criticised, perhaps because of animosity towards his Astana team. He hints that the decision to expel him from the Vuelta may have come from the UCI, who tried to take away the team’s WorldTour licence at the start of the season after a series of doping cases and allegations of poor management.
Nibali also talked about the tension within the Kazakhstani team, revealing that he does not have a get-out clause in his contract with the team for 2016 and hopes he will be allowed to rebuild the group of riders around him, suggesting the results will follow as a consequence.
“I don’t like being treated like a monster because I’m not,” Nibali said in the exclusive interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“A lot of bad things have been said about me. I don’t know if it's because of jealousy or something… On the internet someone has even described what I did as one of the five worst things ever seen in cycling. Someone even wrote that I held onto a car at the Florence world championships after my crash. But that’s rubbish and there’s no proof of that.”
Nibali feels he has become an easy target for criticism.
“I’ve been hit on as if I’ve killed someone. That’s not the case. I made a mistake. That’s all,” he argued.
“I’ve got lots of friends in the peloton who I get on really well with. Perhaps some people have turned against me because of the team I ride for. Some people don’t like the Astana team, that can’t be denied. That’s also why I’m sure that the decision to throw me out of the race wasn’t taken just by the chief race judge. I might be wrong but surely such a big decision will have been approved by the UCI.”
Back racing soon
Nibali has returned home to Lugano in Switzerland but revealed he preferred to go out for an ice cream with his family than watch the finale of stage 4 of the Vuelta. He is hoping to race again soon and draw up some kind of end of season race programme.
“I want to turn the page and move on. I want to race again as soon as possible, perhaps even on Sunday in Plouay. But I need the UCI and the Vuelta organisers to give me the okay,” Nibali explained.
Gazzetta dello Sport claims Vuelta race director Javier Guillén is ready to give Nibali the okay to race if the UCI agree but the sports governing body has yet to make an announcement.
“Vincenzo was expelled from the race and apologised. He has paid enough. We won’t do anything against him,” Gazzetta report Guillen as saying.
His future at Astana
Nibali is aware of the speculation and reports that he may leave Astana due to the tension and lack of trust following his difficult season. He appeared to fire a warning shot to team manager Alexander Vinokourov, who has criticised him in the past, and called on the Astana team to help him find some peace of mind by recreating the group of riders and staff that helped him win the 2014 Tour de France.
“The best solution will be to reach an agreement with Astana, “Nibali said.
“There’s no get out clause in my contract, which is valid for all of 2016, so the only way to end the contract would be via an agreement with the bosses at Kazakhstan cycling. But I think it’s in everyone interests to rebuild a good relationship. I need to find some peace of mind and so I need my group around me. I wasn’t the only one to make a mistake on Sunday. I’m not asking a lot. Shefer (the directeur sportif who was also disqualified for towing Nibali) has an important role in the team: he knows the importance of the two or three riders who haven’t raced with me recently.”
"I’ve proved that I give my best when I’m happy and relaxed. Let me smile again and the results will come back.”
We discuss Nibali's expulsion from the Vuelta a Espana and what it means for his future in the latest edition of the Cyclingnews podcast. Click below to listen.
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