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Michele Scarponi is expected to provide key, super-domestique support for Vincenzo Nibali during the 2014 Tour de France
Italian pleased with his start at Astana
“Winning the Tour de France is not going to be easy but Vincenzo has all the credentials to fight for the yellow jersey,” Scarponi told Tuttobici.
Nibali last rode the Tour de France in 2012, where he finished third. The Italian was beaten by the Sky pairing of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. It is likely that he will have to take on the duo once again, with Wiggins set to return to the Tour team this year.
Sky has won the previous two editions of the race and has dominated both occasions, nonetheless, Scarponi is confident of his teammate’s chances. “Vincenzo is one of the strongest riders, he won the Giro and took a podium finish in the Vuelta, in addition to having twice won Tirreno-Adriatico.”
There were plenty of rumours as to where Scarponi would end up this season, as his contract with Lampre-Merida ran its course. In the end Scarponi joined Astana over the winter, on a single-year contract. The 2011 Giro d’Italia winner says the switch was necessary, “because I needed new challenges.”
In joining Astana he finds himself in a support role, rather than the leadership position he is used to. Scarponi will have a few of his own opportunities at the Giro, but the 34-year-old will have keep himself fresh for the Tour de France in July.
“This year I will have the task of doing a good Giro d’Italia,” he explained. “But I'll also help Nibali at the Tour, since winning the French race is the number one goal of Astana, so I'll have to be careful to manage my peaks of form.”
Scarponi began his year at the Tour de San Luis, in January. It was a relatively anonymous performance finishing 23rd in the general classification, but the Italian was pleased with his performance, especially in the time trial, where he finished 11th.
“I did not do miracles but I feel I have a good job, I have a good feeling,” says Scarponi. “During the first gathering made Calpe led me to do some testing on the position to improve the speed bike time trial position: I hope I can improve just enough."