Demise of Italian Cycling Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Nibali_tdf_stage6_2014
by Barnaby CHESTERMAN

NANCY, France, July 12, 2014 – The demise of Italian cycling has been
greatly exaggerated according to winning pair Vincenzo Nibali and Matteo
Trentin.

Nibali, 29, kept hold of the Tour de France yellow jersey after Trentin,
24, won Friday’s 234.5km stage from Epernay to Nancy.

Italian cycling has come under fire in local press but the performances of
those two have given it much to smile about in France.

Trentin out-sprinted stage-favourite Peter Sagan by just a single inch on
Friday to add to Nibali’s stage win in Sheffield on Sunday.

And with The Sicilian holding the race lead since then, Italy has if
anything outdone Germany and their four stage wins from Marcel Kittel, with
three, and Andre Greipel in this Tour.

Nibali pointed to recent Italian successes, such as his Astana teammate
Fabio Aru’s third place at May’s Tour of Italy, as evidence that the brickbats
are misplaced.

“There’s been a lot of criticism, even recently because we didn’t shine in
the Classics but then in these (Tour) stages, different riders like Trentin
have done well.

“Then when you look at what Aru did, there are young riders doing well.

“The future is good and there’s too much criticism. You have to look after
the young who need to mature.”

Trentin concurred and said there were good young riders coming through.

“As a professional I’ve not ridden in an Italian team so I can’t really
speak about Italian cycling but what I can say is we have a lot of good guys,
young guys waiting around the corner, and let’s just say Italian cycling is
not dead.”

Italy may not have produced a Tour winner since the tainted but brilliant
Marco Pantani’s success in 1998 but they had been used to winning sprints
until recently.

Mario Cippolini and then Alessandro Petacchi were both at one stage or
another considered the best sprinters in the world, winning six and 12 Tour
stages respectively.

They’ve long since been surpassed by the likes of Mark Cavendish, Kittel
and Greipel.

Italians held the world road-race title for three straight years from 2006
to 2008, with Paolo Bettini winning twice and Alessandro Ballan also
triumphing. But not even a podium place since then.

Even in the Giro d’Italia, which Italians won 11 times in a row from 1997
to 2007, they’ve only won it three times out of the last seven, and even then
Michele Scarponi’s 2011 victory only came after Alberto Contador was stripped
of his original success for doping.

There have also been numerous doping scandals blighting Italian cycling
with Ballan, Petacchi, former Giro winners Danilo Di Luca, Paolo Savoldelli
and Ivan Basso, as well as Classics specialist Davide Rebellin all being
implicated to varying degrees.

But Nibali said it was time to consign such matters to the past and rebuild
cycling’s reputation in one of the sport’s hubs, but where its reputation has
taken a severe blow.

“For sure what’s happened over the last few years in Italy has left us in
this position (of ambivalence). Not a lot of importance is given to cycling
but we must put it behind us,” he said.

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