Vincenzo Nibali's Tour de France cobbles attack 'showed bravery'

Vincenzo Nibali on stage five of the 2014 Tour de France

(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Vincenzo Nibali's attack on the cobbles to Arenberg helped him win the 2014 Tour de France, a bravery missing in cycling at times said Astana Team Manager Giuseppe Martinelli.

"With respect to the past, for sure, yes [it is missing]," Martinelli told Italy's Ciclo Web.

"You try to get the best result with the minimum effort. Just think, we used to see attacks in the feed zone... Today, no one does that, but not because no one can't. If they did it, they'd be butchered."

Nibali, in the yellow jersey with matching arm warmers rolled down to his wrists, dominated the classification race when the Tour raced the wet and muddy cobbles in northern France on July 9. Lars Boom (Belkin) won the stage, but the Sicilian gained 2-35 minutes on Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and 3-27 on eventual Tour runner up, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale).

Sky’s Chris Froome crashed twice - plus once the day before - and was forced to abandon early in the fifth stage.

"The tactic was to race at the front, but that day he accomplished the same as in one of the summit finishes,” Martinelli said.

"We previewed the sectors and he showed that he was at ease. And of course, having the yellow jersey helped him. I knew we had a good team on hand, but I didn't think he could pull of such a number."

Nibali's other gains came in the high mountains, but they were not comparable to that three-plus-minute gap on Peraud. Contador abandoned during stage 10 to La Planche des Belles Filles, but France's Peraud only lost 20 seconds. Peraud's biggest time loss in a mountain stage was 2-09 minutes.

Vincenzo Nibali escapes in the 2014 Milan-San Remo

Vincenzo Nibali escapes during the 2014 Milan-San Remo

Nibali also attacked in other 2014 races, but ultimately failed. In this year's Milan-San Remo, he tried on the Cipressa but lacked assistance. He rode 16 kilometres alone, similar to his solo Liège-Bastogne-Liège move in 2012, before being caught.

"Many people called his move silly, but if it was that way, then it's my fault, not Vincenzo's,” continued Martinelli.

“I thought that with a [Philippe] Gilbert or a [Fabian] Cancellara that he could change the race so that we wouldn't see a sprint. If they had followed him, it would have been a different story. They knew we were going to do that on the eve of the race. Every year, it seems that everyone will attack but in the end – if you take out Vincenzo, Peter Sagan and a few others – nothing happens."

Nibali's goals appear to be the same for 2015 as they were in 2014: racing Tirreno-Adriatico, San Remo and building for the Tour de France. Martinelli explained that the courage that Nibali showed on the cobbles will help for the 2015 Tour's fourth stage to Cambrai, but is not enough to win Paris-Roubaix.

"It comes at another time of the year and it'd be very hard for him to compete with the big classics champions,” he added. “Besides, when you aim for the Tour, it's not plausible that you are racing at a high level in that period."

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