Speaking to the media at the team's first get-together in the Tuscan spa town of Montecatini Terme, where rider programmes were discussed and decided, Nibali confirmed that a second consecutive victory at the Tour de France will be his major goal of the 2015 season. However he insisted there is still a slight chance he could also ride the Giro d'Italia, perhaps in support of younger teammate Fabio Aru and to target stage victories.
Nibali again vented his anger against the Iglinsky brothers, his teammates in the Astana WorldTour team, who tested positive for EPO during the summer, and the three Continental team riders who failed tests for anabolic steroids. He is clearly angry that the best season of his career has been marred by the doping scandals caused by Kazakhstan riders. But he has no intention to change teams.
“At this moment in the season, it'd be crazy,” he told Cyclingnews and the Italian Gazzetta dello Sport and La Repubblica newspapers during an interview.
“Where would I go? If I move, then at least six other people would have to come with me. Astana has invested in us. We're working hard and working well. In the last two years with Astana I've obtained the biggest success of my career, I've won the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. Within the team, there's a group of Italian people who have worked with me, people like Slongo my coach and the riders who are part of my group.”
Nibali could get out of his reported four-million Euro contract with Astana if the team is refused a place in the 2015 WorldTour because of the doping scandals but he is convinced that will not be the case.
“It won't happen. I don't think it will happen,” he said.
“The most recent events have nothing to do with us. This is the Astana WorldTour team, not Astana 2. I understand action has been taken. As far as I understand the Astana 2 team will be suspended and there'll be some changes. But Astana 2 is not the Astana WorldTour team. The only link to the Continental team was via Dmitriy Sedoun. He was the team manager of Astana 2 and directeur sportif with us. But he's been removed.”
“I don't even know what the three guys on the Continental look like. I don't know why they've done it. They were in a development team and had a chance of getting a place in the WorldTour team. My thought on it is that they were desperate to turn pro and get a good contract.”
Leaving a door open for the Giro d'Italia
Nibali did not avoid questions about the doping cases but was far happier talking about his hopes and objectives for the 2015 season.
In the last few days, he sat down with his trusted coach Paolo Slongo and directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli to finalise his 2015 race programme. Tirreno-Adriatico appears to be is first goal of the season, followed by the Ardennes Classic and possibly the Giro d'Italia. The Tour de France remains his biggest objective of 2015.
“We decided that I'll start off at the Dubai Tour, then probably ride Oman or do a training camp on Mount Teide, then it's Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and Ardennes Classics,” Nibali revealed.
“However my programme is flexible and I've got the power to choose my programme based on my form.”
Nibali wants a second Tour de France victory but is tempted to ride the Giro d'Italia too.
“The Giro is the Giro, it's special for me and for the Italian fans. It's a race I've won and want to win again. I've got to go back sometime, even if it could be more logical in 2016,” he said.
“My goal is the Tour but there's a door open, a chance, that I could ride the Giro and we'd decide if it's to go for the overall classification or not. But I honestly don't know if I'll ride. Because during the spring, it’s the time I have to work hard for the Tour at training camps. It could be an experiment but I'll decide during the season.”
Nibali's coach Paolo Slongo quickly poured cold water on the idea of going for the double in 2015. His coaching logic is stronger than Nibali's desire to ride the Giro.
“Considering the Giro d'Italia route, with two mountain finishes in the first week, it means you can't start the Corsa Rosa in early May at 80% of your form and grow. You have to be ready. That means having a peak of form for close to three months and that's impossible,” Slongo said.
Rivalry with Aru
If Nibali rode the Giro d'Italia, he would also overshadow teammate Fabio Aru, who has the Corsa Rosa as his big goal of 2015. Both are ambitious and could win the Giro d'Italia or perhaps join forces to take on Alberto Contador.
Nibali quickly points out that he won the Giro and the Tour in the last two years, while Aru has yet to win a Grand Tour but he dismisses any suggestion that a fierce rivalry could develop.
During the Astana get-together the two went mountain biking together and jokingly compared the way they fixed a puncture together to the legendary passing of a bidon between Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali. The two have the same agent and both had to leave their homes in Sicily and Sardinia as teenagers to become full-time riders.
“Aru hasn't won a Giro, while I've got more experience,” Nibali said.
“He's a smart guy and that's why were able to talk and get on. We know that we have to talk and clear things up if there are problems. We get on well and have a laugh together. We've got a good group of people around us.”
“If we go to the Giro with two leaders, something could happen but so far it hasn't happened. I don't know how we'd behave it did, obviously the road will decide things. He knows that if I ride the Giro, it's to do well and we'd have to ride to get the best possible results for the team and not wreck things. The road always decides who is the strongest.”
The Astana get together in Montecatini Terme ended up with dinner and riders and staff who help Nibali win the Tour de France given a special Hublot watch. The Astana team will gather in Calpe, Spain, next week for the first serious training camp. A second camp will follow in January.