Italian champion Vincenzo Nibali hits form just at the right time
Vincenzo Nibali faced a different situation over a week ago with zero wins, but the tide has turned in his favour now with two victories and the Tour de France‘s yellow jersey ahead of Monday’s stage to London.
“The team always believed in my possibilities,” Nibali said. “We all knew that team Astana made a big investment, all the staff. It’s normal when you want to win the Tour. Our goal’s the Tour de France. I’ve come with good condition and this shows that we were ready. This is big for Astana, as this is the national day in Astana.”
Team Astana’s top brass, including former cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov, must have been nodding their heads in approval of Nibali’s attack at 1.8 kilometres outside of Sheffield yesterday. It gave him the stage win and the yellow jersey, and followed one week after he won the Italian Championships.
The situation has changed completely from one month ago when the team had reportedly told Nibali – the 2013 Giro d’Italia and the 2010 Vuelta a España winner – to deliver the goods it pays him for. Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper reported ahead of the Critérium du Dauphiné that Vinokourov sent Nibali an e-mail personally to express his concern for the lack of wins.
“We want big results,” Vinokourov’s e-mail reportedly read. “We don’t want excuses, ifs and buts. We are not interested in reasons, but results. Up until now, we have not seen them. Like this, things aren’t going well for us.”
“The story’s not true,” Nibali told Cycling Weekly last month. “‘Vino’ wrote to the team, not me personally, and told us to try to work together and focus on reaching our goals… the Tour de France.”
Either way, with his win, Nibali proved that he is worth the reported the €4m (£3.16m) annual contract that he has. He ought to be able to hold his jersey at least through Monday’s stage to London and perhaps through the ‘Roubaix’ stage over the cobbles on Wednesday.
“It didn’t upset me that I was written off for the Tour de France in favour of Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, that is just the press doing what it’s paid to do,” Nibali said. “I’ve always believed in my chances in the Tour. I’ve gave a good sign with my win and so I’m faithful.
“I’ve had the red jersey for the Vuelta a España, the pink from the Giro d’Italia, but to put on the yellow too… Only a few riders have done this, maybe just Contador in these recent times.”