Nibali: It’s over with Liquigas

Sicilian confirms split with Liquigas, but is focused on the Tour de France

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SAINT VALLIER, France (VN) — Italy’s most promising stage racer, Vincenzo Nibali will split with Liquigas-Cannondale at the end of the year.

“I won’t stay with Liquigas,” he told VeloNews Monday morning ahead of the Critérium du Dauphiné’s first road stage.

In the last month, besides training for the Tour de France, he’s worked out his future with agent Alex Carera. As reported by VeloNews, Nibali did not sign a contract extension with Liquigas following the spring classics. On Monday, he confirmed that he would leave Italy’s most prominent team at the end of the year.

“We talked, there was an offer [from Liquigas at a reported $2.2 million annually], but we said, ‘No.’ It was a significant offer, but there are many other aspects that need to be looked over,” said Nibali. “Maybe in the future we will have a chance to talk again.”

After Ivan Basso, who raced the Giro d’Italia last month, Nibali is the king of Liquigas. His helpers stepped off the team bus one-by-one this morning, mounted their bikes and waited. They waited for their Sicilian leader.

The 27-year-old spent his first professional season with Fassa Bortolo in 2005, but grew up within the green team. He started to spread his wings just at the time Liquigas welcomed Ivan Basso in late 2008.

A month ago, he nearly pulled off the Liège-Bastogne-Liège one-day classic, but Nibali is developing into one of the top grand tour riders.

“I’m convinced in my abilities,” he said, his teammates looking on and waiting to start the race. “In these last years, I’ve always done well in the stage races and in the one-day races, the classics. You can’t ask for more, knowing that some times you win by a small amount, but sometimes you can lose by that same amount.”

He placed third and won a stage in the Giro d’Italia while helping Basso win the overall title in 2010. Later in the year, he won the Vuelta a España. Right now, his focus is on the Tour de France. Nibali skipped the Giro this year in hopes to go there and win. He’s leaving the contact details up to his agent.

Nibali said that having a signed contract in place before the Tour would not change change the way he races in July.

“I’ll continue to race how I have been doing,” he said. “It’s not a thought that runs through my head and holds me back, thinking I need to sign for more or less. I’m relaxed with what I’ve done and I’ll remain that way throughout this year.”

According to Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport, Nibali has already signed for two years with Astana at $3.5 million annually.

“I don’t want to name names,” Carera told VeloNews. “I can only say that there are two or three teams interested.”

BMC Racing and Astana have been rumored to be interested throughout the spring. When contacted last month, both teams told VeloNews they weren’t negotiating with Nibali.

Nibali said Monday that he would announce his decision only after the transfer period opens on August 1. For now, he will race and will try to deliver the Tour de France as a parting gift to the Liquigas squad he has called home for nearly his entire career.

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