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Report: Change on the horizon for Nibali

MILAN (VN) — Italian Vincenzo Nibali plans on changing his schedule and his team after a “beating” in the Tour de France.

Nibali, according to an article in La Gazzetta dello Sport, will not return to the Tour de France in 2016 and will leave team Astana as soon as possible.

“I’ve had nothing but beatings all year,” Nibali said.

“We’ll work better over the winter, to be more impressive already in the spring. Like in 2012, or in 2013. Not like this year, when I was always missing something.”

Nibali has won all three grand tours: the 2010 Vuelta a España, the 2013 Giro d’Italia, and last year’s Tour de France. This season, he has yet to win one stage race.

Nibali saved his 2015 Tour with a stage win at La Toussuire ski station in stage 19, which helped him secure a fourth-place overall finish.

At one point, however, Nibali could not push his body enough. He lost 4:25 on the stage to La Pierre-Saint-Martin at the start of the second week. He sat 10th overall, but said he would not consider pulling out like American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) did, who exited the race during stage 17 with a respiratory infection.

A change was in the air after Nibali showed he could not match or come near his 2014 Tour de France win. He stopped talking and Astana general manager Alexandre Vinokourov began.

The 2012 London Olympic road race champion from Kazakhstan, who was booted from the 2007 Tour for blood doping, gave Dane Jakob Fuglsang leadership on the roads of France this month. He said, “Something is wrong with Nibali’s head, and he needs a good mechanic to fix it.”

The voices began to travel around the pressroom. Nibali would break his Astana contract one year early and leave Astana at the end of 2015. However, it did not add up, since Nibali is reportedly paid a hefty $4.42m annually. Annulments have been done before (Cavendish in 2013 and Cadel Evans in 2010), but if Nibali left, he would have to pay a large buyout clause and would likely not earn as much on a new team based on his recent results.

What is certain is that Astana is putting greater faith in Italian Fabio Aru after his two stage wins and second place overall in the Giro d’Italia. The team renewed Aru’s contract through 2017, and he will be supported by Fuglsang — who will also remain on the team at least through 2017 — in the coming years.

Nibali will leave the turquoise team at the end of 2016, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. BMC and Trek Factory Racing have been named as squads who might sign him, but the newspaper reported that the 30-year-old Sicilian is considering a team of his own.

Some changes will happen immediately after the “beating.” Though not clear in what role, Nibali will join Aru and Mikel Landa — Landa was third overall in the Giro behind Aru — in Astana’s Vuelta a España team next month.

Vinokourov told VeloNews, “We have to win at least one grand tour a year.”

Though still nine months out, it appears Nibali will return to the Giro d’Italia in 2016. Aru, with Fuglsang’s help, will debut in the Tour. If the rumors are correct, Nibali will not return to the Tour until 2017 — and he won’t be wearing Astana’s turquoise kit.