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"Vincenzo often tries to encourage me to go into a breakaway or do specific things because he wants me to get some results and not always sacrifice myself for him," Agnoli tells Spaziociclismo

Photo: Liquigas-Cannondale




04.12.2013 @ 13:14 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Valerio Agnoli is known as one of Vincenzo Nibali's most loyal domestiques who has been part of most of the Shark's greatest victories. Always sacrificing himself for his captains, Agnoli hopes to make a few personal results in 2014 and is often encouraged to chase success by his captain.


When Vincenzo Nibali lines up at a major race, he rarely does so without having his close friend Valerio Agnoli at his side. The two riders started riding together at Liquigas in 2008 and when Nibali decided to join Astana for the 2012 season, Agnoli followed him to his new team.


Agnoli has played a major role in many of Nibali's best results and played a crucial role this year when Nibali won his first Giro d'Italia. However, his loyal work for his close friend has given him very few opportunities to chase personal success and Agnoli still hasn't won his first professional race.


In 2014 Agnoli will again mostly ride in a support role but he also hopes to get a few more chances to ride for himself. In fact, Nibali is often encouraging to target some rare personal success.


"Vincenzo often tries to encourage me to go into a breakaway or do specific things because he wants me to get some results and not always sacrifice myself for him," he told Spaziociclismo in an interview. "Then it is often a matter of luck as you have to find a time when your are good and that is not easy. Maybe you feel good on a day when you have to help the team and then you give up your own ambitions."


Agnoli's friendship with Nibali is much more than just a working relationship.


"Let's say that the cycling is only a limited part of our time together," he said. "I go on vacation with Vincenzo and we are both passionate about computers. Yesterday, we started to change the memory of my pc. We talk about everything else than cycling. It is a friendship that extends to my wife who is the best friend of Rachel, Nibali's wife. We will be together at Christmas and then we go to Sicily to spend the New Year. It's a great thing for me and for him because our friendship is something special."


However, the duo may be riding a bit less together in 2014. As is already known, Nibali will target the Tour de France but Agnoli has been scheduled to do the Giro where he will ride in support of Michele Scarponi and Fabio Aru.


"I will do the Tour Down Under," he said. "After two or three days at home, I will do the Dubai Tour and the Ruta del Sol. Then I will spends a week on Teide [on Tenerife] before riding the Tirreno-Adriatico where I want to be really good, and the Milan-Sanremo. Then I'll do the Giro d'Italia."


Astana has reinforced its squad considerable with the signing of riders like Michele Scarponi, Franco Pellizotti, Mikel Lande and Lieuwe Westra and so there is a fierce competition for the 9 spots on the Tour de France roster. Nonetheless, Agnoli still hopes to get the chance to support Nibali in the biggest race of the year as he has never done the French race before.


"The managers will decide the team for the Tour," he said. "I would be happy to do it because it would be a dream to ride it to win it. Let's see how the schedules are. At the moment, the goal is, however, the Giro and then we will see about the Tour afterwards.


"We have just had a very important season with Astana," he said. "Vincenzo's win in the Giro d'Italia and the near-miss in the Vuelta were two important steps that helped us finish as one of the best five teams in the world. 2014 will be very important with the objectives being the Giro with Scarponi and the Tour with Vincenzo. We have to work well to replicate last year's results."


While Agnoli is keen to talk about the objectives of the team, he also hopes that there will be an open door for him to go for his first professional victory.


"In the Giro d'Italia I would like to be really good at one stage like the one to Monte Cassino [close to his home] or other stages with climbs near the end," he said. "I would also like to get a result in the Tirreno and the Rital del  Sol. My mentality has changed and I want to aim for a good result. This does not mean that I won't do my job for the team but when I have the green light, I will be ready."


In 2014, Agnoli had hoped to ride alongside Nibali in the Vuelta but a crash in the Vuelta a Burgos forced him to miss the race. That also meant that he wasn't selected for the world championships on home soil but he hopes to make amends next year when the race for the rainbow jersey will be held on a hilly course in the Spanish city of Ponferrada.


"This year I had a lot of bad luck," he said. "I had the Worlds on my schedule and the Vuelta would give me the best chance to show my worth. The problem is that I was unfortunate to break my rib in the Vuelta a Burgos and then had to skip the Vuelta. Not doing the Vuelta didn't help me getting selected for Florence. I hope to be there next year. I am working to do well at the Worlds."


Agnoli may mostly be known as Nibali's friend but he plans to make 2014 the year when he becomes famous for his own exploits as well.



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