Astana finds trainer for Nibali as he aims at the 2013 Giro

After missing out on Luca Guercilena and being turned down by Paolo Slongo, Astana brings on Maurizio Mazzoleni to work with its new star

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MILAN (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali will find the support he needs in his new Astana team, from teammates to directors, to a newly appointed coach. The team announced today that Maurizo Mazzoleni would help guide Nibali to what it hopes will be grand tour success.

The Italian, 28 years old yesterday, left Liquigas-Cannondale after seven years to join Astana. Only racing one year prior with Fassa Bortolo, the team became his family. It guided him to a Vuelta a España win and third place in the Giro d’Italia and, this year, the Tour de France. Nibali brought along to Astana trusted helpers Valerio Agnoli and Alessandro Vanotti, and masseur Michele Pallini. However, he left behind his trainer, Paolo Slongo.

“He is a great trainer,” Nibali told VeloNews in September. “More than anything, though, we were good friends.”

Nibali said that he has enough knowledge to train on his own, and he is comfortable relying on Astan boss Guiseppe Martinelli. However, with the team investing so much in him, a dedicated trainer was needed. Martinelli initially targeted new RadioShack-Nissan manager Luca Guercilena.

“I spoke to Luca Guercilena; we wanted to bring him on board to guide our riders,” said Martinelli. “However, he was able to take over with [Johan] Bruyneel leaving.”

The Astana boss then turned to Nibali’s old friend, Slongo, but the Liquigas trainer couldn’t bridge the conflict of interest with his team’s own riders.

“[Martnelli] also asked me I if I could just follow Nibali, and still work for Liquigas, but I said ‘no, he’d be too much of a rival for us!’” said Slongo. “It’s also out of respect for [Ivan] Basso and [Moreno] Moser.”

Martinelli revealed this morning in Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport that he had signed a deal with Maurizio Mazzoleni, who runs the Modus Vivendi training center in Bergamo. Mazzoleni has worked with several professionals and freelanced with Guercilena.

The undisputed leader

As with 2010 and 2012, Nibali will begin his season in Argentina at the Tour de San Luis. He won the race in 2010. This year he needs it to make a strong start and prepare for the Giro d’Italia. Though not making an official announcement yet, the team has decided to aim the Sicilian at the Italian grand tour instead of the Tour de France.

“Next year we are aiming for the Giro, to tell you the truth,” Martinelli told VeloNews last month.

“First, we are going to try to win the Giro and then maybe we will return again to the Tour… I’d hope that in 2014 that everyone else is focused elsewhere and leaves the Tour to us. Maybe one will aim for the Giro and one will aim for the Vuelta… We hope it’s that way and we find extra space. In 2013, like I said, the first goal is the Giro.”

Martinelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport that he sees a big boost for Nibali at Astana. This year at the Tour, he placed third behind Sky’s Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, but had to share the spotlight — and the team’s resources — with Liquigas teammate Peter Sagan. Sagan won three stages and the green jersey.

“The fact that he’s our undisputed leader, he’s got complete trust,” Martinelli told the Italian newspaper. “He’s not going to have to improvise in a race, he doesn’t have to anticipate any other teammate’s moves.”

The team is getting to work on creating a united Astana front for Nibali. The team met this week in Pistoia, Italy, and will reconvene again in high-altitude spots like Tenerife early in 2013.

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