Should Nibali Leave Astana?

Play word association and many would link “Astana” to “positive test” rather than the capital of Kazakhstan or the Tour de France triumph. The Iglinskiy brothers and two riders few had heard of, Ilya Davidenok and Victor Okishev, riding for the Astana Continental team, a separate development, team have been caught recently.

It’s bad for the World Tour team and its reputation. The UCI has said the team’s licence application for 2015 is going to be looked at more closely. But what of the riders on the team? I’ve seen several saying Vincenzo Nibali should leave the team and readers have asked about this by email too. If only it was so easy.

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Highlights of 2014 – Part II

Lars Boom Tour de France pave

Let’s limit this to one Tour de France highlight. It’s a tough pick, do we celebrate Tony Martin’s enormous ride across the Vosges? Celebrate Ag2r’s joy as the team stood below the podium in the pouring rain while Blel Kadri took the applause for his stage win? What about the French pride at two riders on the podium, the way the sport was reaching people like it used to? Or those huge crowds in Yorkshire and London?

The highlight was the stage to Wallers-Arenberg, 155km and several cobbled sections.

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The Moment The Race Was Won: The Tour de France

Stage 10 and Vincenzo Nibali wins atop the Planche des Belles Filles. It was one of only two days when he wasn’t wearing the yellow jersey but he reclaimed the race lead with a performance so strong that doubts about his form in the mountains were crushed.

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Tour de France Stage 10 Wrap

With no preview tomorrow because it’s a rest day here’s the daily take on the day’s stage. It was a day marked by the loss of Alberto Contador as much as the win by Vincenzo Nibali.

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Who Will Win The Tour de France?

The closer the race gets the more uncertain the outcome. The year began with Chris Froome as the nailed on certainty but gradually Alberto Contador’s results made people take notice and his ride in the Dauphiné means we could have a three week duel. But now Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde are on the up too and the more names we throw into the mix, the closer the contest.

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Training Time

Want to see Alberto Contador, Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali in action together? You could wait for the Critérium du Dauphiné in June but, as today’s L’Equipe shows, they will all meet up this month in Tenerife for training camps on Mount Teide. Quite probably they will all stay in the same hotel, setting up an intriguing atmosphere with the three great rivals for the Tour de France sitting down for dinner together, albeit at different tables.

It’s easy to spend hours reviewing the tactics in a race but very little time and coverage is given to what a rider’s job really involves: training.

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Paris-Nice Contenders and Pretenders

A bicycle race is an exercise in hierarchy. We start with riders on equal time and by the end they are arranged in order. Tests like summit finishes and time trials help impose a reasonable order and over the years we’ve got used to seeing teams controlling events in stage races and relying on set piece moments to define the race, a “train” imposing itself of the race.

Only this year’s Paris-Nice has none of these cues, the route is a blank canvas where riders will have to take risks to win.

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The Moment The Race Was Won: The Giro

Was there a race-winning moment? Vincenzo Nibali used the first week to put himself in the ideal position and took the race lead after the time trial in Saltara. From this point onwards the cast of potential rivals began to shrink and fade.

But if you had to chose one moment to define the 2013 Giro, what better than the one pictured above? It’s Stage 14 and the final climb of the Jafferau above the town of Bardonnechia. Snow forced a late change to the route and the bad weather even blocked the TV coverage. It’s a scene from winter but in a race defined by bad weather, the only concession to the cold from Nibali is toe covers. He attacks and behind the others think of giving chase but only Mauro Santambrogio and Carlos Betancur will be able to follow.

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