Thursday, May 31, 2012

Where Should Nibali Go To?

With news (and non-news) breaking that Vincenzo Nibali is leaving Liquigas-Cannondale at the end of the season, we ponder the choice that he might make. We think that Nibali is a very exciting all-rounder, one of a very select cadre of riders that give truly positive meaning to the term "all-rounder." He's one of the best descenders in the business, a former winner of the Vuelta a Espana with true legitimacy to the Giro d'Italia crown, winner of several week-long stage races, and finally an exciting contender in the classics. His attacks in Milano-Sanremo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège were daring even if he didn't end up winner. Certainly Italian national coach Paolo Bettini agrees.

Liquigas-Cannondale has been his home for all his pro career. As we pondered some time ago, the squad is becoming too full, bursting with talent across generations.  Nibali's most inconvenient teammate is perhaps Ivan Basso, twice winner of the Giro d'Italia who is revered as god in Italy. This makes it hard for the team to not let him choose his races, especially for the Giro. As a result, Nibali is sitting out this year's Giro d'Italia, even if it is a more suitable corsa for him than last year's.

Where should Nibali go to? Should he go to Astana Version 3 to follow Giuseppe Martinelli the legendary team manager? Martinelli was behind the successes of Marco Pantani, Stefano Garzelli, Gilberto Simoni, Damiano Cunego, and now of Alexandre Vinokourov, Maxim Iglinsky and Enrico Gasparotto? If he does, he might have to dampen his classics ambitions a bit, but he may gain leadership in the grand tours, at worst shared with Roman Kreuziger.

Clearly, Nibali is a hot commodity, and as The Inner Ring rues, the transfer season is effectively all-year long for those high-potential cyclists.

What other teams do you think he should consider?

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