Vincenzo Nibali will be questioned by French police on November 10 about the incident with roadside spectators at the Tour de France that left him with a fractured vertebra, with the Italian confirming to Cyclingnews that both he and the Bahrain-Merida team intend to continue their legal action for possible damages.
Nibali's chances of winning the Tour de France ended on stage 12 on the slopes of L’Alpe d’Huez when a spectator's camera strap seemingly caught his handlebars, causing him to crash on his back.
Nibali got up to finish the stage but was later diagnosed with a fractured vertebra. He underwent vertebroplasty surgery to stabilise the fracture and ease the pain, but despite riding the Vuelta a España, he was unable to return to his best in time for the UCI Road World Championships and could only fight for second place behind Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) at Saturday’s Il Lombardia.
Nibali is due to head to Zanzibar later this week after attending Bahrain-Merida’s first off-season get together in Como on Monday. On his return he will travel to the Tour de France Saitama Criterium in Japan and then, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, will meet with French police from Grenoble, who are investigating the incident on the slopes of L’Alpe d’Huez. Tour de France organiser ASO could ultimately be held responsible for the damage caused by the incident, but they could argue that it was caused by the reckless behaviour of the roadside fans.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, several Italian spectators who were present near the incident have given evidence. Police are also likely to study social media video content that captured the moment of the incident.
Nibali confirmed to Cyclingnews that both he and the Bahrain-Merida team are fighting for compensation, even if the case could be drawn out and costly. Nibali’s trusted lawyer Fausto Malucchi has already filed a formal complaint with French police, sparking the investigation.
"The team and I paid heavily for this situation, because 70 per cent of a team’s visibility comes at the Tour. Beyond the damage to your health, economically, what is the value of the damage suffered?" Nibali asked in the summer.
"Also – and he never complains – but does it seem right to you that [Chris] Froome came to be hit while he was doing his job? He took a blow just before my crash. All too often we’re riding in crazy situations."
Nibali recently pointed out to Cyclingnews that crowd control was also lacking during the recent World Championships, while a spectator’s camera strap entangled with Romain Bardet’s handlebars, sparking a crash during Il Lombardia.
Planning for 2019 with Bahrain-Merida
Nibali rode the Chrono des Nations time trial in France on Sunday but quickly returned to Italy to join up with his new Bahrain-Merida teammates to plan for the 2019 season.
Nibali has a contact for 2019 but confirmed to Cyclingnews last week that he is open to offers, admitting he would be flattered if Team Sky made him an offer. Trek-Segafredo and UAE Team Emirates have both been linked with Nibali for 2020 and beyond, while Bahrain-Merida have also made him an offer to stay.
"Next year I'm under contract with Bahrain-Merida, but I've also received some very interesting offers alongside that from Bahrain-Merida. I'm going to have to carefully study things and decide which is best for me. It's not just about the contract but also about the development of the team as a project," Nibali explained to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I'd be flattered to receive an offer from Team Sky. I'd like that. It'd be a really nice challenge that I opted not to take up in the past. I don't have any regrets about that, but Team Sky is a unique team; they can perhaps help you achieve things that you’ve never done before," Nibali told Cyclingnews.
The Bahrain-Merida team will have a roster of 25 riders in 2019 after losing 11 riders, including Giovanni Visconti, Ion and Gorka Izagirre, Manuele Boaro, Enrico Gasparotto, Ramunas Navardauskas and Niccolò Bonifazio. Kanstantsin Siutsou was told his contract would not be extended before he tested positive for EPO in August. Franco Pellizotti will become directeur sportif with the team after ending his career at Il Lombardia.
New riders for 2019 include time trial world champion Rohan Dennis, Damiano Caruso, Dylan Theuns, Marcel Sieberg and Welsh neo-pro Stevie Williams. Only Dennis was absent from the get together because he is about to become a father.
"For 2018 I think we deserve a score of seven out of 10,” team manager Brent Copeland told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “We finished in the top three 89 times, won 26 times, took 34 second places and 29 third places. We’re seventh in the rankings. We hoped to finish fifth, and without Vincenzo’s incident at the Tour we would have achieved that."
Bahrain-Merida will again hold their first winter training camp in Hvar, Croatia, with a second camp in Cambrils, south of Barcelona.