The Sicilian fell well short in his ambition to defend the yellow jersey he won last year but salvaged his race with a late stage win in the Alps. That was a second win in what has been a disappointing season by Nibali’s standards and the Astana team has been open about the possibility of sending the rider to the Vuelta in August and September. Given the way he improved towards the latter stages of the Tour, he may represent Astana's best chance of salvaging a Grand Tour win from this season, otherwise Fabio Aru will lead the line.
Cyclingnews understands that Nibali has met up with his family and will have a few days off before meeting with Paolo Slongo and Alexander Schefer to make a final decision, based on what sort of condition he is in after coming through the Tour.
“If Vincenzo goes to the Vuelta it’s really important that he has a good condition to support the ambitions of the Astana team. The plan is to go to the Vuelta to win, with Vincenzo, or Fabio Aru, and it’s really important that the condition is very good, to support these ambitions. He will probably make the decision next Saturday,” Nibali’s agent Alex Carera told Cyclingnews.
The Vuelta might be in the immediate future but Nibali’s longer-term plans have also been under the spotlight. The 30-year-old has another year left on his contract with Astana and should be exempt from the rumour mill that ratchets up at this time of year.
However, Astana general manager Alexandr Vinokourov hit the headlines during the Tour when he was reported to have told Nibali, after a disappointing first day in the Pyrenees, that he could find another team for 2016. Furthermore, on Tuesday morning Italian daily newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport suggested that Nibali will not renew with Astana for 2017 and that he has ambitions of forming an Italian-based outfit in the future.
Carera, who called Vinoukourov when he read that news during the Tour and was immediately told it wasn’t true, insists that Nibali is perfectly happy with his current team and will indeed consider extending when the time comes.
“Of course we’ll talk with Astana," he said. "At the Tour this year not everything was ok but in three years, in the four Grand Tours that Vincenzo has done with Astana, he has won twice and one time was second.
“I think there is no problem. Vincenzo has a good relationship with the staff and team. Of course everything is better when there are many victories. It’s more straightforward, but that’s life. Vincenzo is a good man, has a good image, and I think he’s happy there. He has stayed with the team for 3 years and I think he’s happy."
As for the suggestions of animosity between the rider and Vinokourov: “I think the relationship is a normal one between a manager and a rider".
Carera will wait until after the Tour of Almaty and the Tour of Lombardy before meeting again with the Astana management. Despite insisting it is possible Nibali will stay there in 2017, he acknowledged that there is no shortage of interest surrounding the Italian.
“Vincenzo is a star of cycling, he has had great results in the last four seasons, so it’s normal when other teams know that his contract finishes at the end of 2016, there are some teams that are interested.
“Of course, if his contract finished this year, it’s normal that I would have already started to talk with Astana and many teams but at this moment I don’t think it’s serious to talk.
“There are many, many teams who like Vincenzo. Every team wants the opportunity to win big Tours. Maybe not Movistar or Tinkoff because they already have a star, but other teams with good budgets are interested in Vincenzo.”