Vincenzo Nibali and Jakob Fuglsang are friends again following a war of words this weekend when the Dane accused Nibali and Trek-Segafredo of pushing hard on a descent during stage eight after he had suffered a puncture and found himself detached from the peloton.
“I have not seen the television images at the time of writing,” Fuglsang began in his column for Danish newspaper BT after the stage, “but Trek-Segafredo started to lead the descent and perhaps increased the pace after my flat tire. It caused some panic within our team car, but luckily I managed to rejoin the peloton. It was a strange move by Trek.
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“There is an unwritten rule in the peloton. It’s not okay to take advantage of someone else’s bad luck. After my return to the peloton I heard several riders talk about Trek-Segafredo’s race behavior. Some riders wondered what the hell they were up to. They thought it was strange that Trek started racing even faster after my flat tire.
“I passed him and said next time he should be careful while peeing. That he must choose his moment carefully. He took it seriously, didn’t understand the humour, and immediately became defensive. He said it was not his intention to take advantage of my flat tire.”
Aggrieved, Fuglsang said he doesn’t have anything against Nibali, although he expects this sentiment is not shared by the Italian.
“In principle, I have no problem with him,” Fuglsang said. “He especially has something against me. I can understand that the press is writing about my relationship with Nibali, but we are fighting for the overall victory in one of the biggest cycling races in the world.”
Nibali disagrees with how Fuglsang read the situation, saying that if he’d wanted to not let the Dane get back on then they would have driven the pace harder once they finished the descent.
“Yesterday he said I attacked him, but we just went downhill in front, then stopped at the bottom. If we had wanted to attack, it would have been very bad for him,” Nibali told Italian Eurosport, before trying to defuse the situation: “These are sterile controversies.”
The evening after stage eight, Fuglsang says Nibali sent him a message. “About the media trying to create a conflict between us. The Italians had translated my column and they see us as the two biggest favorites in the Giro d’Italia after the departure of Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates.”
The following morning they decided to clear the air, apologising to each other and resolving to let their legs do the talking over the next two weeks. “We expressed that we both thought the other had done things that were not right. But we agreed to greet each other during the stage on Sunday. Now we both hope that we will ride a good Giro and we don’t want a war between us,” Fuglsang said.
The Astana rider currently trails Nibali by just four seconds in the general classification, both around a minute behind race leader João Almeida (Deceuninck – Quick-Step). But in Fuglsang’s mind, the man who sits in second place, 30 seconds ahead of him, is someone he needs to watch particularly closely.
“[Wilco] Kelderman seems to have the strongest team in Sunweb and I expect them to take responsibility,” Fuglsang says of who he says controlling the race going forward after a fairly open first week of the 2020 Italian Grand Tour. “Whether the team will do that is another discussion.”
The next likely change in the general classification will come in the stage 14 time trial, with a number of mountain days then following in the final week of racing.