Astana has released a statement denying reports that the team’s general manager, Alexandre Vinokorouv, had asked Vincenzo Nibali to leave at the end of the season due to his poor performance in this year’s Tour.
Nibali has taken just one win in 2015 – the Italian national championships – and while he had a similarly low key build-up to last year’s Tour, this year he has also been off the pace during the race itself.
Nibali’s disappointment with his form has been increasingly obvious and after Chris Froome dominated stage 10, he was quoted as saying: “I have no more to give. I’m not even the younger brother of the Nibali from last year.”
Despite the Italian rider being contracted until the end of 2016, Spanish newspaper AS yesterday reported that Vinokourov had told him he could find a new team at the end of the year.
However, in the statement, Vinokourov said this was not the case.
"There has never been a question that Vincenzo Nibali will leave the team at the end of the season – Vincenzo is doing very well in the team. Of course I am not happy when we don't win, as is the case with all team general managers – but I merely think that Vincenzo is not riding at his best level in this Tour.”
As to why this might be, Vinokourov said that the team planned to carry out tests to see whether there might be an underlying medical problem hampering Nibali’s performances. He also added that Nibali would ride the Vuelta a Espana later in the year in a bid to secure a Grand Tour victory for the team.
"There is no problem between him and the team, and we have full confidence in him, contrary to what is being reported in the press.”