Kazakh team respond to rumours reported in the Spanish press that Alexander Vinokourov told Vincenzo Nibali he could leave the team at the end of the current season

Astana have been quick to dismiss rumours circulating on Thursday that Vincenzo Nibali had been told by the team’s general manager Alexander Vinokourov that he could find a new team for the 2016 season, after falling out of contention in the 2015 Tour de France on the first mountain stage.

According to reports in Spanish newspaper AS, Vinokourov was so angered by the Italian champion’s poor performances throughout 2015, that he was looking to offload Nibali before his contract expires at the end of 2016.

Nibali lost over four minutes to race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) on the first summit finish of the to La Pierre-Saint-Martin on stage 10, prompting his Kazakh boss to tell the press that “Vincenzo needs a good mechanic because something is broken in his head.”

It’s not the first time either that Vinkourov has pressured Nibali for better results, particularly with the reported €4m per year that the 30-year-old earns, having sent a letter to Nibali ahead of the 2014 Tour demanding results after poor run of form. Nibali subsequently went on to take four stages and the overall in a dominant performance at that Tour.

Vincenzo Nibali and Alexander Vinokourov on stage fourteen of the 2014 Tour de France Credit: Graham Watson

Vincenzo Nibali and Alexander Vinokourov on stage fourteen of the 2014 Tour de France Credit: Graham Watson

Vinokourov was quick to get behind his team leader on Thursday night after the AS report, saying that they would now look to the final Grand Tour of the season, the Vuelta a España for a chance at overall success.

“There has never been a question that Vincenzo Nibali will leave the team at the end of the season – Vincenzo is doing very well in the team,” Vinokourov said in a statement.

“Of course I am not happy when we don’t win, as is the case with all team General Managers – But I merely think that Vincenzo is not riding at his best level in this Tour”

“Nibali has a potential that is much better than his current place in General Classification”

“We are going to do medical tests to determine the reason for his performance, and we also wish to see him race in the Vuelta a España this season to achieve a grand tour victory”

“There is no problem between him and the team, and we have full confidence in him, contrary to what is being reported in the press.”

While Nibali still sits just inside the top-10 of this year’s Tour, 7-47 behind Froome, there was some confusion over who exactly was leading Astana earlier this week, after Vinokourov indicated that Jakob Fuglsang would take over leadership responsibilities.
The Dane sits 13-33 back on the the top of the GC, as the Tour heads to its first transition stage from the Pyrenees to the Alps, on a medium mountain route to Rodez on stage 13.

Vincenzo Nibali’s 2015 Tour de France bike

  • Chris Britton

    Thanks for your comment and general info. I am not concerned so much by NIbali as a potential doper, but was more thinking about the guys in that team who are trying to prove themselves.

    Those who may be told “you’ve got to do X before this date or you’re out” are far more likely to risk resorting to illegal methods to save what may be their best option to make a living.

    If this is the way that Vino talks to an accomplished rider like NIbali, how would he talk to the “lesser riders” who have proven nothing?

  • ian franklin

    Apologies Nigel. I’m sorry, I feel very strongly about a lot of the apeth comments seen here. I’ve been in this sport a long time and am currently coaching in Thailand: massive problems with Thai Cycling Association.

  • Ian, comments sometimes take a while to appear. Also, certain specified words or phrases in a comment mean it is automatically placed on hold for moderation before being made live (or not, if they are abusive, contain foul language, etc). Your original comment is live.

  • David Sundheim

    CW philosophy is as follows… 1. any team that has been busted must mean everyone on that team is doping. 2. Team Sky is great and would never dope (even though overnight Geraint Thomas is one of the world’s best climbers) all things UK are clean and proper, any other teams should be suspected.

  • ian franklin

    Very interesting. People are allowed to post lies and more accusing people of being cheats and liars, accusing clean riders of taking dope and filling their posts with the nastiest of libels ….but ….. I posted a reply to Chris trying to explain how Nibali is highly rated as a clean rider and the fact that he has now won three grand tours. I went on to point out the difference in the way that certain national federations in developing countries behave, compared to those of developed countries. I spoke with first hand experience. But CW, in their wisdom, chooses to keep the liars in public view and allow the posts of haters and so on. But my balanced view post has been deleted. Good journalism? Sinister motives? Wow! There is something going on here. CW: If you want chapter and verse on how the cycling federation in the country in which I live treats overseas expat riders, I’ll tell you. If you want to see the emails from the UCI blatantly refusing to do anything about these activities which fly in the face of the UCI Constitution I can show you. It’s all evidence -based unlike the posts of the accusrers and haters that you appear to support …

  • Richard Hamerton-Stove

    “We are going to do medical tests to determine the reason for his performance..” Astana are a team of cheats. There is plenty of proof. They’ve clearly had to adjust their doping regime in response to being caught. Reckon they’ve got it wrong and should spare us all the trouble and withdraw from all competition.

  • ian franklin

    Chris: Nibali is well known in Italy for being a clean rider; he has won 3 grand tours and has an incredible pedigree with no hint of cheating along the way. Off course no one trusts Vino, the Astana manager. He has a history of doping. In addition I do not trust the Kazaks: this may be seen as politically incorrect but as a person who has first hand experience of how a developing country’s cycling federation lies and cheats and works contrary to the UCI Constitution I see the same behaviour patterns within the Astana management. They are not transparent and can lie to your face and in so doing hide their cheating. However, Nibali is a cut above the whole team and to me I think he should preserve his innocence and his status and get the hell out of it at the first opportunity. In pursuit of ‘political correctness’ it seems that Cookson does not have the stomach or will to go after those Federations that do the sport no good at all. I have no doubt that had Astana been, say French or Swiss, they would have been ejected from the sport a long time ago. My advice to Nibali is “Get Out!”.

  • Chris Britton

    Now, I am not the most clued up on the history of these guys (more of a brief outline), but when you look at the doping reports around Astana and then see the pressure that the team puts the riders under, it’s easy for a skeptic to see a link here…