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Nibali's Tour de France not just a race against Froome

Barry Ryan
December 19, 2013, 09:34,
December 19, 2013, 09:34
First Edition Cycling News, Thursday, December 19, 2013
Tour de France
Vincenzo Nibali climbs through the driving snow on Tre Cime en route to the stage win and his first ever overall Giro d'Italia victory.

Vincenzo Nibali climbs through the driving snow on Tre Cime en route to the stage win and his first ever overall Giro d'Italia victory.

  • Vincenzo Nibali climbs through the driving snow on Tre Cime en route to the stage win and his first ever overall Giro d'Italia victory.
  • Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was on a different level at the Giro d'Italia in May
  • Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
  • Vincenzo Nibali (RadioShack Leopard) finished second overall in Madrid

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Italian calls for clarification of MPCC rules following Pellizotti case

Another year, another grand tour, another rival from Team Sky. After patiently fielding questions about tackling Bradley Wiggins at the Giro d'Italia through the early months of 2013, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) turns his sights to the Tour de France in 2014 with a certain sense of déjà vu. A thousand inquiries on how to solve a problem like Chris Froome await between now and next July.

“It’s a long way off, but I’ve never thought about it in terms of Nibali versus Froome, or Astana versus Sky,” Nibali told Cyclingnews at Astana’s training camp in Calpe. “Besides, there are plenty of other riders who have to be taken into consideration, like Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodriguez or Alejandro Valverde. There are some important riders out there.”

Nibali unseated Froome from the leader's jersey at Tirreno-Adriatico in March by turning the general classification on its head with an aggressive showing on the sinuous stage to Porto Sant'Elpidio. He followed a similar template to put time into Wiggins at Pescara during the Giro's opening week, a day that set the tone for his eventual overall victory.

It suggested a fundamental difference in styles not just between Nibali and the Sky leaders, but also between the Astana and Sky teams. For all that the Kazakh squad has gone about putting an extensive arsenal of climbing talent at Nibali's disposal, he acknowledged that they are unlikely to try to replicate Sky's tactic of controlling races and gradually whittling down the front group on summit finishes.

"Sky have some very strong riders who are able to do that particular work. There are clearly very strong guys at Astana too but maybe we interpret the race in a very different way," Nibali said. "Instead of controlling a race from start to finish, we can look to make it very difficult at [specific] times. Perhaps that’s a quality we have more than they do, as we have riders suited to doing that kind of work.

"In any case, the important thing is not to get bogged down on the idea that a certain rider or team is very strong. You always need to have a bit of tenacity and the invention to know when to seize the moment in a race."

Lessons from the Vuelta

At 29 years of age, and with the Giro and Vuelta a España already on his palmares, it seems only natural that Nibali stakes his 2014 campaign on the Tour de France. In spite of the expectations of an Italian public eager for a first Tour winner since the late Marco Pantani, however, Nibali himself insisted that his default demeanour would remain, as he is wont to say, tranquillo.

"Sure, I want to win the Tour, and I'll do everything I can, but so long as I've done my best, then I won't have any regrets," he said. "It's like the Vuelta this year – I finished second after giving my all and I have no regrets. Ok, Horner beat me and his age and everything sparked a few polemics, but I gave my best and I can't say anything else."

Not that Nibali believes his Vuelta performance is entirely beyond reproach, and the error he identified explains his insistence that Froome will be far from his only rival next July. "The main lesson is that I'll never underestimate anyone again, right from the very first day, because maybe I underestimated Horner a little bit at the start of the Vuelta and I shouldn't have done," Nibali said. "You really have to take everyone into consideration. Everyone."

Broadly speaking, Nibali's 2014 race programme is likely to mirror that of 2012, when he last appeared at the Tour, although the birth of his first child in February may alter his plans for the Tour of Oman, and he has yet to decide between Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. The season will again be broken into two distinct blocks, with a short rest period after the Ardennes classics, while the Critérium du Dauphiné will be Nibali's final tune-up for the Tour, as was the case ahead of his third-place finish in 2012.

"Back then, I knew I was going well but I was still missing something and I couldn't give 100%, it was like I was blocked," Nibali said of his laboured 2012 Dauphiné. "At that point, I didn't know whether I should keep training hard, or if I needed to take a rest. In the end, I continued working hard, and then when I got to the Tour, I kept improving day after day. If something like that happens again, I'll know how to react."


Nibali's coach from his days at Liquigas, Paolo Slongo, joins him at Astana for 2014, after a year where the Sicilian said he largely followed his own devices in training, albeit with some input from the team’s trainer Maurizio Mazzoleni, who is based in Bergamo.

However, another former Liquigas comrade, Franco Pellizotti will not be by Nibali's side in 2014 after his proposed transfer from Androni-Venezuela fell through. Pellizotti returned from a two-year ban for a violation of the biological passport system in 2012, but the Movement for Credible Cycling – whose members include Astana – forbids member teams from signing riders for an additional two years after their doping suspensions expire.

Pellizotti was thus initially slated to begin his Astana career on May 2, 2014, just in time for the Giro, but last week, the team announced that it would not follow through with the signing. The 35-year-old, who won the Italian title after his return from suspension in 2012, is in talks to re-sign with Androni for next year.

"I'm sorry because Franco is a friend. I think he's been very unlucky these past years, he's served his suspension," Nibali said. "There are some rules that are difficult to explain but are applied, like those of the MPCC. He can't be part of our team at the moment for certain reasons linked to the MPCC and I'm very sorry about that. I don't understand these things. On another day, a new group could start with different rules.

"We need a directive, something, from the UCI. They should say 'we're the ones who decide' and it finishes with them. The UCI is working very well with the new president, but I think they need to come up with the same rules for everybody. We can't have one rule for some and another for others, it's not right."

Tony M 10 months ago
Sky's Tour Team could look deeper and stronger in terms of climbing for 2014.Froome could be supported by Porte,Henoa and Nieve on the final stages if long climbs after Stannard,Lopez,Thomas and Kyrienko(?) have thinned the field out.
shapiro 10 months ago
Lifetime bans for proven cheats like Pellizotti would solve Niballi's dilemma re MPCC 'rules'.
rshimizu12 10 months ago
I agree, I am in favor of first offense lifetime ban for all dopers. The only caveat here is that this would apply to riders who doped after the rule was enacted.
gsouthwell 10 months ago
As a Froome fan I hope hope Nibali is on top top form for le tour, it could be a belter!
Calin Marian 10 months ago
Nibbles is overrated and 2014 TDF will prove my statement.He has no chance to drop Froome or Quintana.
martinvickers 10 months ago
Quintana will almost certainly be riding the Giro, not the tour, in 2014.
Afterthought 10 months ago
Maybe that's why he thinks Nibali has no chance of dropping him?! :)
Erik Jonsson 10 months ago
Overrated or not. As an interview subject he is the most pleasurable to read. Good, humble, dynamic responses
Anonymous 10 months ago
"unlucky" is a strange word choice by someone who has been robbed by pelizotti.
Ambassador 10 months ago
Froome will not get an easy victory. There are many of his challengers, who will be better prepared than ever. Unfortunately that was not the case this year.
Erik Jonsson 10 months ago
Contador was pretty much in the form of his life, among others
BackSeatRider 10 months ago
I would disagree with your Contador statement. He went into the race looking to build to 100% so was not at his best. That being said, he was soundly and fairly thrashed by Froome.
Anonymous 10 months ago
no. Contador was nowhere near (for whatever reason) his 'top form'.
Tony M 10 months ago
Agreed Contador was much less than 100% au depart for the tour 2013.For 2014 under Tinkoff I expect him to start pretty near on song.. I'm hoping Nibali will also start close to 100%. Then we have a big race in prospect.
rshimizu12 10 months ago
It's unclear at this point what Froome's form will be at the TDF. Sky has very strong management and coaching staff so they will be monitoring his progress closely. AC seems to rely more on his talent so he has been less disciplined. Last year he vacationed for 3 or 4 weeks in the spring season. There will be much more pressure on AC now that Tinkov owns the team. As for Nibali he seems to be a very disciplined rider as well.
Mondrian 10 months ago
There is also the possibility of Froome dropping his form after winning the Tour as was the case with Wiggo - also regardless of his past question mark over his choice of fuel, Contador is for me the most talented tour rider at present and if he manages to find his climbing legs we will be in for a very entertaining Tour.
TheFred 10 months ago
Froome seems to have a more stable personality than Wiggins and is maintaining resolve to win repeatedly (to prove his cleanliness:-) Based on performance in 2013, Froome is in a class of his own compared to any rider in the world. Remember, in addition to his searing, unmatchable accelerations on the climbs, he rode faster than the world champion time trialist (until the last split) on a flat course, as the world champion turned a 58x11. year is a new race and who knows what it will bring!
kdogg64 10 months ago
It will be interesting to see if Froome can match last year's form. If any one of these guys comes in 2-3% below their peak performance level they will be scratching and clawing just to get on the podium. The differences are that small.
Piratasise 10 months ago
Nibali will do a good race, and if he will be lucky he can win!!! Go Vincenzo Go
rshimizu12 10 months ago
In my mind the TDF favorite is a tossup at this point. Both Contador and Nibali have realized that they need to pay closer attention to their preparation. If AC and Nibali work together in the TDF this could put a lot of pressure on Froome. At this point it's very hard to draw a any conclusions.
veterinar 10 months ago
Why the hell would they work together? This year AC had the "opportunity" to work together with Purito and Valv.Piti, who are all even friends/former teammates. But in the end everyone works for themselves. 3rd place attacks 2nd, they don't cooperate to bring down 1st... Not that I think The Shark will be 3rd again :-)
BackSeatRider 10 months ago
Contador and Valverde should be the biggest beneficiaries of Nibali riding the Tour this year. Everyone has pegged Nibali to be Froome's main challenger. There should be less pressure and media focus to deal with next year. It is shaping up to be an exciting race.
veterinar 10 months ago
I would say the exact opposite... How the hell adding more amazing contenders can benefit Contador and Valverde?? :-) They will probably be pushed down a place...