Friday’s Gazzetta dello Sport gave huge coverage to the Astana team’s tactical error on stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia and the decision to send Vincenzo Nibali on the attack. The Sicilian proved to be far from his best, was quickly caught and then distanced by Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), who extended his race lead on all his rivals. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Mikel Landa (Team Sky) also lost time but Nibali was the centre of attention after he blamed the Astana directeur sportif for telling him to attack.
Nibali’s decision to pass the buck and Giuseppe Martinelli’s decision to take the blame on his experienced shoulders helped avoid questions about Nibali’s form but sparked others about his ability to read a race and make tactical decisions himself.
Gazzetta dello Sport described what happened as an ‘errore fatale’ and a ‘Japanese harakiri’.
“When he received input (from the team car), Nibali didn’t listen to his own legs or sensations and especially didn’t consider the complex situation, instead he just listened to team orders,” the paper laments.
Former world champion Paolo Bettini writes a daily column for the Italian sports newspaper and was even more critical.
“I’m not impressed by the polemics between Nibali and his team car. To be honest, I’m surprised by it all,” Bettini wrote.
“I don’t think a campione like Vincenzo decides to make an attack based just on what he’s told via radio. A rider has always got to know how to evaluate every aspect of the race. As a result it was a double error yesterday by Astana: first because Nibali listened to his team car and secondly because he made a mistake without considering how his legs were feeling.”
Bettini warned that Nibali and the other overall contenders about letting Dumoulin gain any extra seconds. The Dutchman is expected to gain more time in the Chianti time trial on Sunday and so could start the mountain stages with a lead of close to two minutes.
“Dumoulin looks strong and letting him gain seconds is like playing with fire,” Bettini warned. “If the next few stages go as expected, he could come out of the Chianti tine trial with an important lead.”
Nibali’s coach Paolo Slongo predicted that they would be satisfied with Nibali losing between 50 and 75 seconds. If Nibali loses even more the tension in the Astana team will rise even further and make his Giro d’Italia an uphill battle all the way to Turin.