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Martinelli demoted from sport director role in Astana shakeup

Italian Giuseppe Martinelli is demoted to assistant manager after serving five years as a team manager for the Astana squad.

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MILAN (VN) — After winning the Vuelta a España with Fabio Aru and coming off the heels of a rough year, Astana rocked the boat over the weekend by demoting one of cycling’s most successful managers. Italian Giuseppe Martinelli, who has helped teams and riders win eight grand tours, will step down to an assistant role after serving as team manager since 2011.

Astana boss Alexandre Vinokourov promoted former professional Dmitriy Fofonov to the team manager position. Fofonov, who hails from Kazakhstan, has been working as a sport director since retiring from racing in 2012.

“Dmitriy Fofonov is the team manager and will take the place of Giuseppe Martinelli,” Vinokourov told Kazakh website “Giuseppe Martinelli did a good job and will remain in the team as an assistant manager, taking over the functions of all the logistics of transport and drivers. We are grateful to him.”

Astana assured VeloNews there are no hard feelings toward the 60-year-old Martinelli. It was a “renewal of generations” to bring in the 39-year-old Fofonov.

Besides the Vuelta, Martinelli guided Vincenzo Nibali to Giro d’Italia and Tour de France wins. With those by Marco Pantani, Stefano Garzelli, Gilberto Simoni, and Damiani Cunego, he counts eight wins in cycling’s three grand tours.

Martinelli’s demotion comes after the success of Aru, who won his first grand tour in 2015, but also after a rocky ride for the team in turquoise. After Nibali’s 2014 Tour win, five of the squad’s cyclists — including two from the professional team — failed anti-doping tests. The team nearly lost its racing license, only keeping it after special conditions were put in place.

Martinelli reportedly was ready to leave at the end of last year before deciding to stay on and saying the critics were wrong to speculate he would leave. However, he did say he wanted to consider starting his own Italian team in 2017.

Martinelli did not respond when VeloNews called him for this story.

For many, Martinelli is forever linked with Pantani’s rise to fame and fall after tests showed he was doping. Fofonov also had his problems. In the 2008 Tour, he tested positive for the banned stimulant heptaminol and received a three-month ban. Crédit Agricole fired him and his home team came to his rescue.

Fofonov raced for Cofidis, Crédit Agricole, and Astana, and won stages in the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Volta a Catalunya before retiring in 2012.

“Dmitriy Fofonov did a great job this year,” Vinokourov added. “He defended our team at the international federation when there were all these parallel meetings which I could not attend. There were many meetings held, and in that time a Kazakh sports director was a help in terms of anti-doping rules and the communication within the team.”

Even with Fofonov at the helm of Vinokourov’s team, Nibali and Aru will likely turn to Martinelli when they try to win the Giro and the Tour, respectively, in 2016 given his depth of experience.