After boss Alexander Vinokourov replaced Vincenzo Nibali with Jakob Fuglsang as Astana leader, the Dane claims the team is still working for the Italian

Astana’s direction at the Tour de France is far from clear. Boss Alexander Vinokourov abandoned defending champion Vincenzo Nibali in favour of Dane Jakob Fuglsang overnight, but Fuglsang remains uncertain himself as to who is racing for the classification.

Nibali slipped 4-25 minutes back when the Tour climbed its first big mountain, La Pierre-Saint-Martin, on Tuesday. The following stage, he went further in reverse.

Fuglsang, who rode well yesterday, fell 10 minutes behind when the Tour visited Cauterets-Vallée de Saint-Savin on stage 11.

“I think that was a quick reaction [by Vinokourov],” Fuglsang said. “They saw how I was going yesterday and thought, ‘OK, let’s take another decision.’ I spent energy trying to help [Nibali] in the first nine stages, it’s not so easy trying for the top five all of a sudden.”

Vinokourov was not short on criticism after the La Pierre-Saint-Martin stage. He called the day “a disaster” and said: “Vincenzo needs a good mechanic because something is broken in his head.”

His words came after a season where Nibali seems to have gone flat. The Italian, winner of all three grand tours, has yet to score one stage race victory in 2015. The only win to his credit is the Italian championships.

On Wednesday, Nibali explained to the waiting press on the finish line that he did not know the cause of his problem.

“And I still don’t know what’s going on,” he told Cycling Weekly when he arrived to Astana’s bus on Thursday. “Vino’s words? I’m not interested in them.”

Fuglsang painted a grim picture of life on the road given the current Astana situation.

“Of course it’s rough,” he said of Nibali taking a beating by his boss in the press.

“Yesterday, of course, there wasn’t a party at the dinner table. There’s probably also not going to be today.”

>>> Astana defend Nibali’s form as he slips further from Tour de France lead

Vinokourov apparently talks to his team “now and then” but Fuglsang added after a pause, “Not last night!”

The atmosphere appeared much more light-hearted last year, when Nibali was on his way to winning the Tour. This year, the feeling around the Kazakh team is understandably much more subdued.

Putting aside Nibali’s ride, Astana came to the Tour with baggage. The team had five of its riders test positive for doping, two from its top team, and nearly lost its racing licence.

Ahead of the Tour, Lars Boom tested for low cortisol levels and almost did not start. The team had to ignore the Movement for a Credible Cycling’s rules to allow him to do so.

Its hope was that Nibali would rise to the top in the Tour, perhaps helping followers forget the D word, but no one seems to know what went wrong and who is in charge.

“I have no clue,” Fuglsang said about Nibali’s fitness. “He also doesn’t know himself.”

 Watch highlights from stage 11 of the Tour de France

  • ian franklin

    Oh my God! Such ignorance! You know nothing.

  • ThePollitikat

    things I wanted to say about Vino but didn’t. lol

  • J1

    Yeah, he doesn’t ride for a team full of dopers run by an ex-doper….oh….

  • Jon

    Good comment until the last sentence which seems to be insinuating anyone doing better than Nibali may not be clean. Couldn’t posibly be down to form, training, power output to weight ratio, team support etc. etc.

  • Jon

    Nibali has nothing to be ashamed of, unlike Vino. He’s a great rider, albeit not a climbing specialist, having a bit of an off patch. Maybe any ‘head’ problems would be helped by more positive management by someone other than an unrepentant doper.

  • ian franklin

    Nibali has no drug baggage. He has a very solid reputation and therefore your comment not only displays ignorance but is pathetically rude.

  • J1

    Knew something was wrong last year. Harder when you ride clean I suppose.

  • eminusx

    ‘Maybe Nibalis performance in the mountains is what a clean rider looks like?’

    Yes of course, that’s it, anybody who performs better than somebody else in sport simply must be doping, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer etc. it’s obvious where this has all come from and we can’t blame people for thinking that way, but it has to end at some point and we have to start thinking and acting rationally about it, it seems like the easy option now is to just to cast blame without thinking if it’s right to do so or not.

    It’s incredible to some that there are Cyclists more driven by morals than drugs who would feel empty winning under false pretences. Perhaps this says more about the fans than the riders. Personally I believe in the new generation of riders and their disgust at the idea of doping because it’s something I can relate to.

  • Brook Smith

    This is Modus operandi for Astana, publicly playing the riders off against each other, whether it is a tactic to get their riders to become more focused, or to get the other teams guessing – who knows, but I am certain that it will not create a harmonious environment within the Astana team. And I am sure there are enough other people on the tour to fight against without having to fight within your own team.

    As for Nibali winning the tour last year, based on his interviews at the time I think he was very modest and did not expect to win at all, and he even stated at the time that if the stronger climbers were still in the race he would not have been in the lead. So I expect that he himself has come into this tour with a low expectation of winning. But I do also expect to see him take at least one stage win.

    Maybe Nibalis performance in the mountains is what a clean rider looks like?

  • ThePollitikat

    Vino was wrong to go on media and try to diss Nibali and talk about changing leaders. Why would you abandon your leader and defending champion. How rude. I could say more about Vino but I won’t. maybe he should be quiet and listen to Nibali because he already explained this, he is fatigued and mentally stressed from winning the tour. Why doesn’t anyone believe him? He said he never really recouperated from winning last year because of obligations of being tour winner. He has basically been touring since winning. He also had to deal with injury and the controversy about the doping and licencing. Menatally he is drained and he has not been able to prepare as he would have liked physically or mentally. He knows he is not in the same form as last year. But as defending champion he came to give it a go. I dont think he expected to win and said he is not obsessed with winning it again. He has already won all 3GT. I dont think he has ambitions of dominating the tour. He has already won all 3, plus two championships and a bunch of other races.

  • Tony

    Anything to do with that microscope Astana are under this year?? As for Vino, couldn’t happen to a better ‘manager’.