Francesco Moser says Nibali and Wiggins are not yet champions
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Francesco Moser says Nibali and Wiggins are not yet champions

by VeloNation Press at 7:29 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Former Giro winner states Italian cycling is in the doldrums

Francesco MoserThe retired champion rider Francesco Moser has criticised the current state of Italian cycling, saying that there is a dearth of strong riders from the country, that Vincenzo Nibali is over-rated and overpaid, and that in one day races Italians are no longer any good.

The 61 year old was one of the top Italian competitors of the last 40 years, winning the Giro d’Italia, the world road race championship, the Classics Milan-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne and the Giro di Lombardia, and also holding the world hour record.

Speaking to, he made clear that he didn’t think much of where Italian cycling is right now. “It’s a lean period, especially in the Classics where we are not competitive,” he said, before assessing Italian performances in the world championships and Il Lombardia.

The first Italian finisher in the former was Oscar Gatto in thirteenth, with Nibali being unable to stick with Philippe Gilbert when he attacked. In Il Lombardia Mauro Santambrogio took fourth.

“In the last two major events we missed out completely,” said Moser. “In the rainbow race [the worlds – ed.] Nibali went at the wrong time, only to encourage Gilbert. In Lombardy our riders disappeared at the crucial moment, when the race was decided. The truth is, for one day races, we're really bad.”

When it was suggested to him that Nibali was worth considering, Moser said he has yet to show he’s a big winner. He may have taken the 2010 Vuelta a España and finished third in this year’s Tour, but Moser is not convinced.

“Nibali is only a good rider, not a champion. It takes more than that to deserve this title,” he asserted. “He tries, he tries, but he lacks something.”

For that reason, he considers the Sicilian to have secured a three million euro per year contact with Astana. “He is blessed. In my day, the riders were stronger and were paid less,” he said. “People praise him for little, because there is little to be excited about.”

Looking outside Italy, Moser said that he also considers it premature to regard Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins as a new star. “He won the yellow jersey as the Tour has been designed specifically for his characteristics,” he said, claiming that his team did much of the work to set him up in the mountains, and that the difference was made in the time trials. “I do not think would be able to do it again with a different parcours. The only real great, I think, is Contador.”

Controversial comments:

Moser’s comments are likely to stir up debate, particularly amongst those who have followed the history of the sport. During his career he worked with the doctors Francesco Conconi and Michele Ferrari, both regarded as shadowy figures in terms of performance enhancement. He used blood doping to set his hour record in 1984, although the practice was on a grey list at the time rather than being banned outright.

In the two decades Italian cycling has been under the spotlight, with Giro raids, Marco Pantani’s disqualification from the 1999 Giro and later death, the suspensions of many other big riders including Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi, Davide Rebellin, Danilo di Luca, Riccardo Ricco and more, several investigations including the ongoing Mantova enquiry, a ramping-up of CONI’s work in the area and Michele Ferrari’s lifetime ban in relation to doping.

There has been major pressure on Italian cycling to be cleaner than before and it would be naïve not to interpret at least some of the quieter performances in this light. Yet Moser appears not to take this into account. One rider who has all but admitted doping at the start of his career and who has been linked to the Mantova investigation is Damiano Cunego; in assessing his career, Moser again doesn’t look to such matters.

“He began his career in a great way, winning his first Giro. He looked like a phenomenon but, while conquering other important races in recent years, has done little,” he said. “This season has followed in the footsteps of others: he gave the impression of being there, but he never delivered. He is now in the twilight.”

When asked the reason for the slump, he suggests the growth in cycling in other countries plus a changing of the guard in Italy are two major factors.

“There is a generational change that, unfortunately, continues for a long time. At the same time, other countries are putting forward new riders, prepared, strong,” he said.

“We are facing the globalization of the sport. Once Italy, Belgium, France, Spain, dominated and we won. Then came the riders from Europe, Australia, Canada, England. And everything has become more complicated. I knew the characteristics of my opponents, where they could attack me and where I could pull it off.

“Today, the group, most of the riders do not even know [each other]. Many languages are spoken and, tactically, it has become difficult to even interpret the races.”

He hopes that things change in the years to come and has a particular interest in watching one rider: his nephew Moreno Moser. “He’s a guy who has interesting numbers, who is maturing, who showed the important things in his first year as a pro,” he said, referring to the Liquigas-Cannondale rider’s wins, including the Tour of Poland.

“I see a determined rider, so he should not get lost,” he said. “However, we will have to wait a couple of years to say whether he will become a great rider. But I'm glad to see another Moser.”


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