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 “Apart from the obvious reaction - anger - my main feeling was that this was unbelievably stupid. It did not make any sense. He had just renewed his contract. He did not have a massive goal to chase."

Photo: Sirotti

ASTANA - PREMIER TECH

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DOPING

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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22.11.2014 @ 16:17 Posted by Joseph Doherty

In 2014, Vincenzo Nibali cemented himself as a legend of cycling, becoming only the sixth man in history to have won all three Grand Tours. In an interview with The Guardian, he spoke about his Tour and the recent doping positives at his Astana team and how much they anger him.

 

“[Chris] Froome and Contador were ahead of me at the Critérium du Dauphiné [in June],” Nibali says, “but I arrived at the Tour in peak form. I did fantastic altitude training and I could feel it. Boom. I was in great shape. It was the first time I’d prepared for just one race and we saw the impact from the start.”

 

Nibali showed this great shape n stage two into Sheffield, going solo to win by one second and take the Yellow Jersey by the same margin, one that he would only give away once, to Tony Gallopin a week later.

 

Nibali’s face lights up as he remembers “the amazing first two days in Yorkshire. The crowds were incredible but they made the roads even narrower. There was stress – but winning in Sheffield was beautiful. I took the yellow jersey for the first time and I was very happy. Even if it seemed a bit soon I knew the significance. On that stage Froome attacked first – and then Contador came. I closed them down because we’d discussed it as a team. It was very important to win that day and take control, with your team car in front, for the cobble stage.”

 

Nibali was clinical before in Sheffield, but after stage five across the cobbles of Northern France, he showed his quality, taking three minutes on eventual Tour de France runner up Jean Christophe Peraud. He looked cool as a cucumber that day on the bike, but he said that in the morning of the stage he was far from it.

 

“In the morning I was scared. But the first pavé was easier and gave me confidence. By the time I hit the third stretch, the really tough one, I felt ready. The rain meant you needed special bike-handling but it became better. I felt fantastic … afterwards.”

 

Nibali has wrongly come under pressure in recent weeks for the two Iglinskiy brothers’ positive EPO tests, as well as the recent double positives for Astana Continental team riders. He said he was angry when he heard the news of the these tests and that those riders act independently and that there is no doping ethos in the team.

 

 “Apart from the obvious reaction – anger – my main feeling was that this was unbelievably stupid. It did not make any sense. He had just renewed his contract. He did not have a massive goal to chase. Our sponsors in Kazakhstan weren’t happy at all. We were in Kazakhstan the week after [at the Tour of Almaty] and there was such a feeling of betrayal because he is a Kazakh rider.”

 

Iglinskiy’s brother, Valentin, had already been suspended in September after failing a test for EPO. “Same family,” Nibali shrugs. The problem for Nibali is that Maxim Iglinskiy, if not his brother, was part of his Tour team. “Yes,” Nibali concedes. “But he was not part of my training team. I have a training team of seven and he was never part of it. The two other members of the team are chosen at the last minute. They are like a filler.”

 

Maxim’s test only succeeded in rubbing salt into old wounds for Nibali, as the Kazakh caught Nibali one kilometer from the line to beat him in the 2012 Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

 

Less than a month after Maxim, Ilya Davidenok, a stagiaire at the Astana team, had a positive test while riding at the Tour de l’Avenir, Nibali was quick to point out that his team and Davidenok’s continental team only share the same name and apart from that, there are no similarities.

 

“This guy is not from our team,” Nibali insists. “Astana has a satellite team of youngsters. It’s a completely different team. I dug up a little info on him because I didn’t even know who he was. I discovered he was racing with the Kazakh national team. So only the brothers were really associated with Astana and the Kazakhstan federation has been very tough on them. It’s right that they should.”

 

The Guardian asked Nibali if he was angry that he has been tainted by association to these four riders, two of whom he has never met and only one was in his Tour team?

 

“No. I’m just surprised. Today we have a biological passport, regular doping control, race controls. If you are doping, you will be caught. Even if the technique of doping can be advanced you will still be caught in another four years. It makes me laugh. Risking and cheating today is for stupid people.”

 

There was also a claim in 2011 that Liquigas rider Leonardo Bertagnolli that he was given permission to work with notorious (and now banned) doping doctor Michele Ferrari. Liquigas, Nibali’s team in 2011, denied this claim. Nibali says he has never even met Ferrari.

 

Having just turned 30, Nibali is at the peak of his powers and has the ability and skill and determination to win even more Grand Tours in the future. Lets hope if he does so, he will not have to face so many people who believe he has won illegally, something Nibali is very passionately against. 

 

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