Vincenzo Nibali has apologised after being disqualified from the Vuelta a Espana for holding onto a team car but believes he deserved just a time penalty, not expulsion from the race, because he was trying to get back to the peloton after a crash.
The 2014 Tour de France winner posted a defiant but apologetic message on his Facebook page and also spoke to La Gazzetta dello Sport. In the Italian sports newspaper, he blamed Caleb Ewan of Orica-GreenEdge for the crash that left several riders injured and also pointed the finger at his Astana team, suggesting that he was ‘abandoned’ after the crash.
“I want to publicily apologise for what happened, especially for the people who feel they are angry or ashamed of me!” Nibali wrote on his Facebook page, pushing back against the wave of criticism that has risen since video footage emerged showing him taking a tow from an Astana team car after being delayed by a huge crash in the peloton with 20km to go
“What happened at the Vuelta happens in every race, even if that does mean what I did isn’t right. I should have been punished. The race judges decide the right punishment.”
“I chased back on to show that I’m not hurt and was fine until taking a 150 metre tow - a mistake that people are ready to throw mud at me for and attack me for. Yet nobody talks about the people who attacked when others crashed, about a lone chase against 18 attackers. No sir. In cycling the race is the race and nobody waits for you!!”
“There are lots of episodes like this in cycling and especially so after a crash!! I thought I’d get a fine and time penalty that would take me out of the overall classification. I’d have even accepted a ten-minute penalty. After all, I won’t be the first or last to do this kind of thing.”
“I apologise again if I’ve stolen your time and thanks for the support you may or may not give me. See you soon! Vince.”
Abandoned by Astana
Nibali was angry and disappointed after the crash according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, blaming both Caleb Ewan and his Astana team. He was left waiting in the road for a new bike and suggested none of his teammates waited for him at the back of the peloton when he got back on.
“The crash was the fault of Caleb Ewan who did a crazy, aggressive move. Look at the video and you can understand why riders got hurt. Yet he’s still in the race,” Gazzetta dello Sport report Nibali as saying. “I went looking for him while I was waiting for a new bike but fortunately for him he’d already got going. I wanted to speak to him…”
Before the start of Monday's third stage, the Orica-GreenEdge team denied that Ewan was the cause of the crash, claiming the young Australian sprinter was at the back of the peloton at the time.
After the crash Nibali was seen standing in the road waiting for a new bike, as most other riders quickly got going again.
“It’s fair to say that things didn’t go right. Everyone saw how long I had to wait,” he said.
“Everybody was shouting in the radio: Aru, Aru, Aru…. Did you see who eventually gave me a bike? Martinelli. And how much time passed before I could start chasing? I made a mistake but I would perhaps have gone home anyway. What was the point in staying?”
“As I said, I was left abandoned. Even if I was feeling good. I was hoping to get through the first week without losing a lot of time. It’s frustrating that I’m going home without being able to demonstrate anything. But I’ve got to keep my mouth shut.”
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