It looks like Vincenzo Nibali's duties have expired at Liquigas. Surely talented, the Italian needs a strong July to keep his value at the $1.5 + million mark. Photo: Bettini
Che peccato! The Giro d'Italia is over for 2012, and now we must
wait for the 96th edition, slated to start Saturday May 4th in Naples! RBA's
Racy Language will surely be there to see if Garmin-Barrcuda's Ryder Hesjedal is
there to defend his Maglia Rosa and get up close and personal with that most
Neopolitan of Italian Taste Treats: Pizza Napoletana! (invented in Naples by
pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito in 1889 in honor of Queen Margherita).
Meanwhile the voci de corridori (rumor mill) has been grinding away
and Racy Language can now talk about a few whispers heard in the bowels of the
sala stamps (press room) during the Giro d'Italia. It seems certain that
Liquigas-Cannondale's Vincenzo Nibali will ride for Astana in 2013. La Gazzetta
dell Sport confirmed his reported deal as a two-year, $3.5 million per year
contract that will also bring over Liquigas riders Vanotti, Agnoli and team
coach Paolo Slongo. Astana has also re-inked Amstel Gold winner Enrico
Gasparotto for a two year deal that is a big raise for the Italian classics
No worries cash-wise for Astana, as the squad is backed by
Kazakstan's sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna, which owns Kazakstan's national
rail and postal service, the state oil and gas company KazMunayGas, the state
uranium company Kazatomprom, Air Astana, and numerous financial groups.
Alexandre Vinokourov is pulling the strings at Astana and besides Nibali, he has
his sights on the Schleck Brothers. Although the two Luxemburgers still have two
years to go on their contract with Radio Shack, a financial accommodation could
be found with team owner Flavio Becca to let the Schlecks scamper, who clearly
don't get along with Shack manager Johan Bruyneel. The question is: if the
Scheck's split, who will be team leader for the Grand Tours?
As for Alberto Contador, most reports have him headed back to Bjarne
Riis and Saxo Bank for the remainder of 2012, but all bets are off for 2013 and
beyond. Omega Pharma-Quick Step is still interested in Berto, but imagine if Andy
and Franck exit stage left for a pile of case at Astana and Johan brings in
Contador stage right? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction; remember the
surprise move when Berto beat feet from Astana in 2010 to ride for Saxo Bank? And
don't forget the behind the scenes struggle between Specialized and Trek; having invested heavily, the
Big Red S no doubt wants to keep the Spaniard on their bikes.
If Contador goes to Johan & Co, it's Trek all the way,
baby. What about Liquigas-Cannondale without Nibali? Although the squad is
likely to continue through 2013 and include Peter "Super" Sagan, Ivan Basso is
not the rider he once was so Liquigas is looking for a replacement. How about
Ryder Hesjedal, who has one more year with Garmin?
Props to the team at RAISport-TV, led by Giro d'Italia executive
producer Auro Bulbarelli (shown right, with RAISport color commentator Davide
Cassani left) for their great Giro d'Italia TV coverage, shown in the US by
Universal Sports TV. RAISport's Giro d'Italia had record breaking audiences this
year with their innovative Fan Stage (with Giro race organizers RCS) pulling an
audience pulling 5 million viewers in Italy. "We had an audience share of 14.6%,
which is really something", said Bulbarelli. "It shows how strong our broadcasts
were, and what a great team we have at RAISport Ciclismo."
Racy Language ran into two Canadians on the morning of the queen
stage of the 95th Giro d'Italia, and surprisingly, there was no discussion of the Stanley Cup (maybe because there are no Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup
this year). Canadian champ Svein Tuft and Garmin-Barrcuda's Giro revelation
Ryder Hesjedal are both from British Columbia gave us a shot of their North of
the Border version of bromance. Svein told us later in Milano
that he was thrilled to see a fellow Canadian perform so well in the Giro, while the
always laid back Hesjedal was clearly ready for the challenge to come. The
question is now whether Hesjedal will take his incredible form into the Tour de
France as Garmin-Barrcuda team leader? Only Jonathan Vaughters knows for
In his rookie Giro d'Italia as sport director, former Pro rider Charly Wegelius
(left) added his knowledge and experience to the Garmin-Barrcuda squad.
Together with the teams other new sport director Alan Peiper, fresh from
HTC-Highroad, Wegelius had the winning rider and winning team. Quite an
accomplishment for the British rider who is now based in Finland. Post-race,
Wegelius blogged on the UK's Cycling Weekly site "Personally, I think that a big
part of the final 16-second (winning margin of Hesjedal) can be found somewhere
else. It is in the people. I strongly believe that good people in the right jobs
are what make the difference."
One of Garmin-Barrcuda's key people is head mechanic Geoff Brown
(right) who was very pleased to see fellow Canadian Hesjedal win the
Giro d'Italia. Brown is no stranger to Grand Tour wins, as he was at U.S. Postal
& Discovery Channel for all of Lance Armstrong's Tour de France wins. (here
is a profile of Brown from 2001; http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2001/jul/30/cycling.cycling2).
He told Racy Language "Ryder's win is really something special for me. To see a
fellow Canadian win a Grand Tour is really great!"