MIJAS, Spain (VN) — Italian Vincenzo Nibali said “Adios” to the Vuelta a España Monday after only two stages, making a bad year even worse for him and his team Astana. However, he defended his late-race tactics that led to his expulsion.
The race jury gave him the boot Sunday night after reviewing critical moments of stage 2. In question was Nibali’s excessive tow from the Astana team car as he chased to rejoin the peloton following a crash at 30 kilometers out in the 158.7km stage to the Caminito del Rey summit finish.
“For what happened, I apologize to all those who are ashamed and upset for me,” Nibali wrote on his Facebook page.
“What happened in the Vuelta happens in every race. This does not mean that it is not wrong and that I shouldn’t go unpunished. Just that the punishment is too severe.
“I thought I’d get a hefty fine and kicked down the classification. I would’ve accepted a penalty of 10 minutes! After all, I’m not the first or the last in this type of story.”
Nibali said that people are quick to blame him but that they should consider those who crashed and those who were attacking after the incident.
After the crash, Nibali chased alone at times and with teammates at other times. The help from Astana’s car, driven by sport director Alexandre Shefer, caused the jury to act. With 16km left to race, the turquoise car zipped alongside Nibali. He took hold of the door, and they sped clear of the chase group.
Nibali rejoined the front with 10km to go but lost ground on the final climb to the finish and came across the line in 31st place, around one minute back from the favorites Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Chris Froome (Sky).
The expulsion underlined a bad year marked by doping cases in the team and few results for Nibali, who won the 2010 Vuelta, the 2013 Giro d’Italia, and the 2014 Tour de France.
Before Nibali rebounded to win the stage to La Toussuire at the Tour, rumors circulated that he might try to break his Astana contract this winter and leave a year early. It seems the situation is still not well with Nibali and the team.
“Maybe I would have pulled out of the race anyway, what would I have done here anyway?” Nibali told <em.
Nibali said that in the moments after the incident the team favored Fabio Aru, who was also involved.
“What do I mean? In the sense that I was abandoned. And yet I feel good, my legs feel good. I just had to pass the first week without any problems. Instead, I’m going home without having demonstrated anything.
“When a season starts poorly, it finishes worse.”
Nibali’s only UCI WorldTour result this year was the La Toussuire stage win, which came with its own controversy. He attacked the moment Froome had a mechanical problem.
It is unclear where Nibali will race next, perhaps in the series of Italian one-day races including the Giro di Lombardia. He already said he wants to plan his race schedule differently for 2016.
Astana still has two captains in the Vuelta with Aru and Mikel Landa. On Monday, the team and the Vuelta will race ahead, covering the flat roads to Málaga.