ROUEN, France (VN) – Liquigas-Cannondale team boss Roberto Amadio defended his choice to bring Vincenzo Nibali to this year’s Tour de France despite the Italian’s departure from the team at the end of the season.
Nibali, who dodged a bullet Wednesday after he was caught up in a crash with 55km to go, is an outsider for the final podium in Paris. The “Shark of Messina,” however, is set to leave the Italian squad next year in what’s likely to be a move to Astana for a big-money contract.
Despite Nibali’s departure, Amadio said the team is committed to helping him during this year’s Tour.
“It’s fair that he rides with us in this Tour even though we all know he is leaving the team. Vincenzo is a great professional and he will give his all. In this Tour, it’s clear that the team will be riding for him,” Amadio told VeloNews. “The goal of Liquigas-Cannondale is to always try to win the course and Vincenzo Nibali is an important rider for us until December 31, 2012.”
Nibali has been one of Liquigas’s most important riders and grew into a major international star during his tenure on the team, which began in 2006 after spending his neo-pro season with Fassa Bortolo.
With an overall win at the 2010 Vuelta a España and a podium at the 2011 Giro d’Italia, Nibali’s potential and his haul of UCI points helped him set up for a major pay raise. Earlier this year Nibali reached the podium at both Milan-San Remo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Liquigas tried to counter the big-money plays, but simply couldn’t equal the offer, and thus lost their star protégé.
“It’s too bad for us to lose Nibali, but he had a very big economic offer that anyone could understand that they would consider that he would accept,” Amadio said. “Sure, it’s a shame for us to lose him, but it’s business.”
Amadio insists that the future is secure despite Nibali’s departure. Reports suggest that Liquigas will leave as the title sponsor next season, but that the team already has its financial future secure with new sponsors poised to slot in.
On the sporting side, Amadio can rest assured with the rising success of Peter Sagan, who is under contract through 2014.
“Our future continues with or without Nibali. We still have Sagan, [Ivan] Basso, [Moreno] Moser and [Elia] Viviani. Our future is secure,” he said. “From my point of view, I think we are between the top-five to top-10 in the world. We lose something with Nibali, but we are still strong.”
Amadio suggested that aging star Ivan Basso can be a factor in this Tour. Not only can he help Nibali, but Basso will be able to chase his own chances, with either a stage win or perhaps a run at the climber’s jersey.
“The first priority for the team is to help Nibali try to arrive on the final podium,” he said. “If Basso is feeling good, maybe he can do something, too. His goal was the Giro. Of course, he wanted more. Maybe he can get some satisfaction during this Tour.”