Despite pledging his support to fellow Italian Fabio Aru during the Tour, Astana bosses say they won't rule out Nibali being able to win the overall

Fabio Aru will remain the Tour de France leader over the next two weeks even if Vincenzo Nibali upstages him early in the race, say Astana.

Nibali won the race in 2014 and this year’s Giro d’Italia. Aru, who barely has competed in France, is racing the Tour for the first time. Astana decided this winter that Aru would focus on the Tour and that Nibali would aim for the Giro and the Olympic road race.

“I’d hope so,” Team Manager Giuseppe Martinelli told Cycling Weekly when asked if Nibali could win the Tour. “Also because it’s been since 1998 that someone’s done that double, so it’d be a beautiful thing.

“We have the Olympics in our head, though, and Fabio is our leader at the Tour. There’s hope. Who wouldn’t dream of winning the Tour and having a captain like Fabio and an important rider like Vincenzo? Any manager would want to be in my position now.”

Martinelli guided Marco Pantani to the Giro/Tour double in 1998. This year, the team aims for the double win, but with two different Italians.



“Our strategy will stay the same because if Vincenzo is further up in the classification, I don’t see why… The classification is calculated at the end of the Tour, so we’ll race in the same way. I’m faithful in Fabio, and faithful in Vincenzo doing what he has to do.”

Some Italian insiders say that the two Italians do not get along. Nibali, from Sicily, is due to lead the new Bahrain team in 2017 and Aru, from Italy’s other big island of Sardinia, will stay in Astana’s colours.

Ahead of the Tour, they trained for the team’s goal at opposite ends of Italy: Aru in Sestriere near the French border and Nibali in the Italian Dolomites near Austria.

Having two big champions could cause troubles when the race hits the high mountains, perhaps producing something like what fans saw between Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in 2012.

“Eh! I don’t know about that!” Martinelli said.

“They are friends how things are now, yes, but who knows down the road! For sure, they respect each other, they are big champions, and they know that to have two is better than one.”

Fabio Aru at the 2016 Tour de France

Fabio Aru at the 2016 Tour de France

Around the corner of the team’s bus, general manager and the reigning Olympic road race champion from London, Alexandre Vinokourov waited to see his stars off for the start of the stage.

Yesterday, Nibali slipped behind Aru and Froome by 11 seconds in the chaotic stage two finish won by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).

“Vincenzo is here to help Aru,” Vinokourov said as Nibali took his blue Specialized ‘shark’ bike from its stand. “It’s difficult to win two big tours in one year, the Giro and the Tour. That’s my opinion.”