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BERGERAC, France (VN) — Astana team management said that the cycling community needs to keep its faith in Vincenzo Nibali’s yellow jersey ride in the Tour de France despite the sport’s past problems.
“Can you have faith in it? Yeah, and more,” team manager, Giuseppe Martinelli told VeloNews. “I’m sure, 100 percent. I don’t think anyone should put doubt on Vincenzo’s win.”
Nibali leads the Tour de France by 7:10 over rival Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) with two days to race, Saturday’s 54km time trial to Perigueux, and Sunday’s stage into Paris.
The 29-year-old Italian from Sicily took the lead on stage 2 and successfully defended it since while rivals like Chris Froome (Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) crashed and abandoned. Along the way, he also responded to questions about doping, and swatted away rumors of an association with controversial trainer Michele Ferrari.
On Thursday, Nibali said that his domination in the 2014 Tour de France is easily explainable and is different from when confessed doper, Lance Armstrong, took his wins.
“Lance’s time seems very different to mine,” Nibali said. “I won the Vuelta a España, placed third in the Giro, second another time, won the Giro, placed second in the Vuelta… I’ve always raced the classics well, attacked, even when I was sick.
“We came here with a strong team and we prepared for this Tour thoroughly. What’s happened, has happened, and there’s great clarity on my part. I have a seven-minute advantage, but I didn’t do it in one day. I took small time each day – 20 seconds here, 40 seconds there – different than the others who sometime they gained a lot, but paid for it on another day.”
Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper wrote an article in August 2009 that quoted sports director Ivano Fanini claiming that Nibali worked with Ferrari. Nibali filed a lawsuit, but dropped the case in 2011 when Fanini agreed to pay a settlement to charity.
Over recent years, however, cycling continued to be bombarded by individual doping cases and larger scandals. Nibali won his 2010 Vuelta against Spain’s Ezequiel Mosquera, who was later disqualified for doping, and his 2013 Giro d’Italia title under an EPO doping storm caused by rivals Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio.
His own house at times has not been in order. Astana joined the sport to support home cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov when Liberty Seguros left due to Operación Puerto. Tests showing blood doping forced Vinokourov out of 2007 Tour de France and brought a suspension.
Astana also offered Armstrong refuge when he returned to cycling along with banned manager Johann Bruyneel in 2010.
“The Astana team is completely new, a young team with young riders,” Nibali said, “completely different than before.”
Martinelli explained that Nibali is “another story” and not connected to any scandals.
“You can ask the questions, but you’re talking about the past, not Vincenzo Nibali,” Martinelli continued.
“If you know the story of cycling, you know that doping had it’s part, but at this point, in my opinion, if you ask Vincenzo questions about it, it should be about the past, not about the present or future. It’s doesn’t have anything to do with him.”