ROUEN, France (VN) – Liquigas-Cannondale team boss Roberto Amadio defended his choice to bring Vincenzo Nibali to this year’s Tour de France despite the Italian’s departure from the team at the end of the season.
Nibali, who dodged a bullet Wednesday after he was caught up in a crash with 55km to go, is an outsider for the final podium in Paris. The “Shark of Messina,” however, is set to leave the Italian squad next year in what’s likely to be a move to Astana for a big-money contract.
Despite Nibali’s departure, Amadio said the team is committed to helping him during this year’s Tour.
“It’s fair that he rides with us in this Tour even though we all know he is leaving the team. Vincenzo is a great professional and he will give his all. In this Tour, it’s clear that the team will be riding for him,” Amadio told VeloNews. “The goal of Liquigas-Cannondale is to always try to win the course and Vincenzo Nibali is an important rider for us until December 31, 2012.”
Nibali has been one of Liquigas’s most important riders and grew into a major international star during his tenure on the team, which began in 2006 after spending his neo-pro season with Fassa Bortolo.
With an overall win at the 2010 Vuelta a España and a podium at the 2011 Giro d’Italia, Nibali’s potential and his haul of UCI points helped him set up for a major pay raise. Earlier this year Nibali reached the podium at both Milan-San Remo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Liquigas tried to counter the big-money plays, but simply couldn’t equal the offer, and thus lost their star protégé.
“It’s too bad for us to lose Nibali, but he had a very big economic offer that anyone could understand that they would consider that he would accept,” Amadio said. “Sure, it’s a shame for us to lose him, but it’s business.”
Amadio insists that the future is secure despite Nibali’s departure. Reports suggest that Liquigas will leave as the title sponsor next season, but that the team already has its financial future secure with new sponsors poised to slot in.
On the sporting side, Amadio can rest assured with the rising success of Peter Sagan, who is under contract through 2014.
“Our future continues with or without Nibali. We still have Sagan, [Ivan] Basso, [Moreno] Moser and [Elia] Viviani. Our future is secure,” he said. “From my point of view, I think we are between the top-five to top-10 in the world. We lose something with Nibali, but we are still strong.”
Amadio suggested that aging star Ivan Basso can be a factor in this Tour. Not only can he help Nibali, but Basso will be able to chase his own chances, with either a stage win or perhaps a run at the climber’s jersey.
“The first priority for the team is to help Nibali try to arrive on the final podium,” he said. “If Basso is feeling good, maybe he can do something, too. His goal was the Giro. Of course, he wanted more. Maybe he can get some satisfaction during this Tour.”
Peiper remains bullish on Farrar
Stage 4 saw another sprint disrupted for American Tyler Farrar, but Garmin-Sharp team director Allan Peiper remains optimistic that a stage win could still be in the cards.
Peiper believes that Farrar is still in with in a chance for a stage victory during this Tour de France.
“Cav is also improvising and he won, he showed that it’s possible. Tyler’s got great legs and he’s in shape,” Peiper told VeloNews. “Cav is really versatile at getting himself into position, but Tyler is also a great position-maker.”
Peiper sees two more opportunities for the sprints and he believes that Farrar will get his chance.
“One of those days will be for Tyler,” he said. “He just needs a tickle of luck to have a right run.”
Despite some close calls, Farrar comes into this season without anything in the win column, dating back to July 4, 2011, his first Tour stage win. Sprinters typically count their successes in double-digits, but Farrar is still looking for that first win of the season.
Peiper says that Farrar is not giving up on his chances. “Tyler is really confident and he doesn’t seem to be suffering at all mentally because he hasn’t won yet,” he said. “Obviously, he wants to win, but there are other mitigating factors. He focused on the classics in the early season, because he wanted to see for once what he could do in the classics. I think he’s learned what he could do and he knows now he’s a sprinter. He got to the Giro in good shape, but crashed out after three stages. He had all that time coming back, getting back into shape for Switzerland.”
Peiper said Farrar plans to fight all the way to Paris if he can before reloading for the Olympic Games in London a week later.
“The plan is to go all the way to Paris …. and win on the Champs-Élysées,” he said with a laugh. “I still think he’s a fraction off top condition and he’s won races when he’s not top, top shape, so that steads well for a good Tour de France for him.”
Stage winner: André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) won his second career Tour stage and his first of this year’s edition.
Yellow jersey: Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) defended his race lead; tomorrow he will surpass the record of 26 days in yellow, the longest ever by a rider who has never won the Tour.
Green jersey. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) now leads in the points competition ahead of Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), 147 points to 92.
Polka dot jersey: Michael Mørkøv (Saxo-Tinkoff banks) enjoyed his first day in the King of the Mountains jersey without riding in a breakaway.
White jersey: Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) finished in main pack to defend young rider’s jersey.
Best team: Team Sky leads the boards.
Martin Tjallingii (Rabobank) was the day’s lone non-starter, out with a broken hip, sustained in Tuesday’s stage; 195 riders remain in the Tour.
Riders caught behind the crash were given the same time as the finishers
Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Movistar), digestive troubles
Thomas Danielson (Garmin-Sharp), cuts, scrapes, traumatism suffered in crash Tuesday
Crash with less than 3km to go: Bernhard Eisel (Sky), stitches to front of head; Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale), blow to left hip; Mark Cavendish (Sky), cuts and scrapes; Robert Hunter (Garmin-Sharp), abrasions to his left side
Continued mild. Forecasters are calling for continued mild temperatures, with highs in low 70s F under mostly sunny skies, light to moderate SW winds 10-20 kph, with a slight chance of scattered afternoon showers.
Thursday’s stage 5: Another sprinter’s chance
The 99th Tour continues Thursday with the 196.5km fifth stage from Rouen to Saint-Quentin. The rolling course features no rated climbs, but it’s gradually up and down all day. Another chance for the sprinters.