Astana team leader was caught on camera holding onto a car to close the gap to the peloton on stage two of this year's Vuelta a España

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has paid a high price for taking an express ride on stage two at the Vuelta a España.

After announcing the decision to disqualify Nibali, the race director said he had “never seen anything similar” to the Italian’s decision to hold onto an Astana team car, and lamented the rider’s “regrettable attitude”.

Nibali took hold of Astana’s turquoise team car with 16 kilometres left to be able to join the leaders’ group. He made it, but later lost contact on the closing climb to Caminito del Rey.

He finished in 31st, at 1-38 minutes down from stage winner and new overall leader Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE), and 1-02 back from top favourite Nairo Quintana (Movistar) – but his result is now null after the decision to expel him from this year’s Vuelta.

After the race jury saw the video of the incident, it sent the Sicilian home along with the sports director, Alexandre Shefer, who was driving the car.

“We’ve seen the video. They tried to search in the rules, all the possibilities, but you know the decision, to expel the rider,” Vuelta race director Javier Guillén told journalists after the stage finish.

“I agree with the decision, because I think his attitude is regrettable.”

Nibali won the Vuelta in 2010 and the other two grand tours – the Giro d’Italia in 2013 and the Tour de France in 2014. He was one of the big stars to line up when the race began yesterday in Marbella along with Chris Froome (Team Sky), Quintana, Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and others.

He is no stranger to controversy, however. At the Tour, he blamed Froome for a crash in the first week. In the final week, he attacked to an eventual win on the La Toussuire mountain stage, while Froome in the yellow jersey had a mechanical problem.

On the roads through Andalusia, Nibali crashed with several others at 30 kilometres to race in the 158.7-kilometre stage. He chased with his team-mates, but hovered around 1-34 minutes with 20 kilometres left to go. Putting his hand on the car door meant that he closed the gap quicker, but he had to face the consequences when the jury saw the YouTube video making its way around the internet.

“There is no other possibility — this image is bad for cycling, for the sport. The consequences of this decision are bad for the Vuelta, we have lost a big rider,” Guillén continued.

“Any other decision would be hard to understand. The rules have to be followed. We have seen the images, I have never seen anything similar before. We respect the UCI jury’s call on this — we are sorry for what has happened.”

  • RobTM

    Nibs needs to release one of those videos.. about cars passing TOO close; then release footage of him remonstrating with the driver 😉

  • RobTM

    and 2015… hanging onto a team car, desperate for a boost to rejoin the peleton; chucking bottles at wrong guy and going on attack to win stage, when yellow jersey was having a mechanical

  • James

    Video dead

  • Bob

    A DQ is fair enough but there’s no consistency or recognisable tariff apart from the
    commissaries mood on the day – that’s the real crime

  • David Sundheim

    I have been cornered and attacked for even suggesting Froome and Sky are up to something underhanded. They ask me “Where is your Proof” ? Yet funny… people have no problem insinuating Nibali’s 2014 TdF. And when it suits them in this case, the “Where there’s Smoke there must be fire” logic is all well and good enough to convict him in court of public opinion. Astana sucks we all know that, but where is the “PROOF” about Nibali? Either reserve judgment, or be open to the possibility they all could be cheating to gain advantages, just be CONSISTENT!

  • Bob Smith

    hehe, fair enough…


    Yes that’s “The Anderson Defence” they were all doing it so I thought I would have a go

  • Simon Patchett

    Yeah I understand your points, I think that discretion is perhaps no longer the best way to rule whether sticky bottle is ok, It does send mixed messages!

  • JT

    Unfortunately, he was at the front of the bunch and it was blatant. However, if one counts how many times the sticky water bottle situation occurs, half the field would be disqualified.

  • David Sundheim

    His reputation, for me anyway, will always be connected with the images of his Maglia Rosa Climbing up the Mountains in a blizzard to win the stage and take Victory overall in the 2013 Giro. And the images of his crushing the rainsoaked cobbles in 2014 whilst wearing a muddied Maillot Jaune and sporting a mud spattered game face, while the rest of his would be Contenders acted like they have never ridden in the rain before. Nibali being a beast in bad conditions. And putting on a real show to win his 2014 TdF is how I will remember. Like him or not, he is a wonderful champion and rides his bike like a kid. Very fun to watch. Does his personality leave some to be desired? Sure. Does his current team make me want to lurch? Yep. But he is a Racer never afraid to take the fight to his rivals. And I will miss watching that this time around.

  • RobTM

    That’s why part of the skill of GC is team loyalty, and respect of other contenders so you get to ride protected just off the front. Nibali took a risk, following further back, when Katusha & Sky were using more energy with around 30KM to go controlling the break. More self destiny would be added, if whole race was ridden as TT & TTT, but don’t expect it to be popular, part of the event drama is the bad luck & tragic adversity due to risk in bunch races.
    Also how would it be decided in this case, that Nibali & Astana had no fault, or indeed other riders? It may well have been Nib’s domestique who was first down causing the pile up behind and Nib’s was held up, waiting for replacement bike.

  • Gary Jogela

    The way he won i suppose.He ended the summit finishes so easily he looked like he was just nipping to the shop for some milk.

  • Simon Patchett

    Whilst I don’t condone hanging onto team cars, I think there should be something in the rules about “getting back on” after you were held up behind a crash you were not involved in! We see riders’ grand tours ruined for things that are out of their control. If the peloton continue at full gas there is no way a smaller group or lone rider can catch back on…

  • Boops

    Blatant pacing! And he preserved about, what, 10 sec of energy for tomorrow. Duh

  • dourscot

    Naughty naughty – his reputation will now hang on those images.

    And he was cheating in the purest sense of the word – he was pulled away form the riders behind him who had to sit and watch the guy being towed at high speed.

  • Andy Dawson

    When someone is shown hanging on to a car and accelerating down the road that isn’t an “opinion” – it’s a fact. Nibali cheated. If there is someone else cheating then lets see the evidence and then lets get rid of them too.

  • J1

    Been saying this since those mountain stages where he rode past some top climbers like they were Kittel.

  • J1

    Don’t be fooled. Astana will have gone down the bribe route.

  • Andrew Bairsto

    In your opinion they have thrown out a cheat in my opinion they have kept the biggest cheat of all and his team I suppose money in the correct hands does work.

  • Faulkner Orkney

    What a shock…and for Astana to be involved too!! What next? The Pope has a balcony and bears do their business in the woods!?

  • Pedro Nogo

    That’s outrageous – how blatant do you want? Will their licence be under investigation again now? ” We can’t get away with pharmaceutical shenanigans boys, time for a new approach”

  • Andy Dawson

    Well done Vuelta for chucking out a cheat. It sounds like hanging on to cars “happens all the time” according to one Astana team boss – well it shouldn’t and the only way is to punish it. This attitude of “everyone does it”and “its not fair that you are picking on me when loads of others do it” is absolutely at the heart of what is wrong. These people need to be talking about honesty, they need to grow up and in the mean time the UCI and race organisers need to be supported and applauded for kicking cheats out.

  • Ecowitch

    For me – the pumishment is not severe enough. This incident showed what he thought he – and the team – could get away with if no one was looking. What else do they do when they feel confident no one is looking? As a supposedly clean winner fo the TdeF, he should have been a model of integrity. Therefore he should be made an example of to demonstrate that Cycling is not for Cheats.

  • Butty

    Surely his bars got snagged on the wing mirror?
    It must have given him a sore shoulder with that acceleration.

  • blemcooper

    Or an *incredibly* effective draft…

  • David Sundheim

    It would appear Nibali had a… “Mechanical”.

  • RobTM

    It looks like a sneeky helicopter shot with a long lens.. they KNEW there were no camera bikes around, so would get away with it — Arrrggghhhh, FAIL!!!

  • William

    I cannot believe my eyes. It was incredible what he and his team car driver did. They both deserve to be expelled from the race. There is no ifs ands or buts about it. It was outrageous what they did. Were they out of their minds?

  • crillin

    I wonder why on earth he and the team car would this? I mean don’t they know there is a camera on them? It’s so funny the way he vanished. Now you see me, now you don’t :).

  • FPCyclist

    Maybe it was “the way” he won, Bob. This video is hilarious. Love to know what the grupo thought as Nibbers vanished up the road.

  • Bob Smith

    why? because he won??

  • FPCyclist

    I agree, Gary.

  • Gary Jogela

    Nibali rode like he was hanging onto a team car all the way through the 2014 TDF