Astana say they refuse to put blame the bike for Vincenzo Nibali's performance in the Giro d'Italia this week. Nibali changed to longer crank arms this winter and unlike his teammates using Campagnolo's electronic shifting, he decided on a mechanical group.
The Italian Grand Tour star lost time in three stages in a row in the Giro d'Italia. Race leader Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) put 43 seconds into him in the stage to Corvara, 2-10 in the time trial and another 1-52 on Tuesday in Andalo. Nibali now trails by 4-43 in fourth place.
"He change from 172.5[mm] to 175 crank arms, it's a 2.5mm change," Nibali's trainer Paolo Slongo told Cycling Weekly.
>>> Are shorter cranks better?
"It's small, but a longer crank should give more of a push when you have strength. We made the decision in December. He's been using it all year, already in the Tour of Oman, Tirreno-Adriatico.
"I've seen many things written on it lately, but I don't think that a 2.5mm change is the reason behind Nibali's performance now. I'd look for it in other areas, like the team is doing to do by checking his values."
Astana's doctor is checking Nibali's levels to see if he is sick to try to find some reason why the pre-race favourite, winner in 2013, is not contending for the title.
Slongo does not see Nibali changing back to the shorter crank arms anytime soon.
"No. We could look at it later. He could turn back now to a shorter crank, but that would be more for his head. It's not going to change his current performances," Slongo added.
"If you can push it, a longer crank arm should give you more resistance. He has a long femur, so it works out. It hinders your attacks, but helps in other areas.
"Those who are racing for the classification don't need those pure attacks, they need more resistance. In theory, it helps gives him an advantage in the classification battle. You need to be regular to race the GC, not an attacker.
"We shouldn't look at what happened recently. He won a sprint against Alejandro Valverde in Friuli. I don't think that we made a mistake and that you can blame the crank arm on his current performances."
Watch: Vincenzo Nibali's bike from the 2015 Tour de France
Nibali also lost time due to a mis-shift in the uphill time trial to Alpe di Siusi on Sunday. Near the finish, his chain came off his chainring and after trying to correct it himself, he stopped for a new bike.
Unlike his teammates on Campagnolo's electric groupset, Nibali uses the mechanical Super Record group.
"He uses it because he always wants to have a lighter bike. The mechanical one is a little lighter. The entire team is on the electronic group. He used it in Tour of Oman, too, but he's looking at every avenue to save weight," said Slongo.
"Under force, dropping the chain can happen. He was going from a 53 to 39-tooth gear. Also, I calculated that he lost 30 seconds for the problems, but if you lose two minutes then that means that you've lost a lot of time in other areas. We can't blame the bike."
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