Bettini tips Nibali for 2014 success: ‘I think he can win the Tour’
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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Bettini tips Nibali for 2014 success: ‘I think he can win the Tour’

by VeloNation Press at 10:42 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Former pro says Italian’s previous successes in Giro and Vuelta prove he is ready to take cycling’s biggest event

Vincenzo NibaliItalian national team coach and former double world champion Paolo Bettini has given compatriot Vincenzo Nibali a vote of confidence as he heads towards the 2014 season, believing that the past Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia winner can complete the sequence of Grand Tour successes by winning the Tour de France.

Nibali finished third overall in the Tour last year, ending up on the podium behind Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. He missed the race entirely in 2013, electing to do the Giro/Vuelta race programme instead and netting first in the Italian race plus second in the Spanish event.

His plans for 2014 are different, though, with the Tour being the overriding priority. Bettini is convinced that he can pull off a big result.

“He has what it takes to be a big favourite in France and I think he can win the Tour,” he told La Repubblica. “I hope so. A three-week race is always difficult but I do not see opponents who are invincible: Vincenzo has already shown in the past that he was able to win the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta. He has already put one leg on the podium of the Tour de France. From there just go up two steps and it is done.”

Nibalia has ridden the race three times. After initially netting twentieth and seventh in 2008 and 2009, he was third in 2012, being the only rider who could challenge the Sky duo of Wiggins and Froome.

On that occasion they were stronger, finishing three minutes 21 seconds and six minutes 19 seconds ahead respectively but, two years later, he will line out in the race believing that he can fight for yellow.

Froome has since won the race, while Wiggins has faded from his 2012 form and might never challenge for the Tour title again. Nairo Quintana emerged this year as a strong bet for future victory in the Tour de France, finishing second in his first attempt, but he has indicated that he will focus on the Giro next year rather than the Tour.

Bettini’s optimism is echoed by the Italian federation president Renato Di Rocco. He points out Nibali’s consistency during the season and believes this shows him to be a more complete rider than some of his rivals.

“I hope Vincenzo will win the Tour de France,” he said, although he also acknowledged that it won’t be easy. “Starting with a fixed objective is always difficult for everyone. I know Nibali, he races from the beginning to the end of the season and is already different to those who have tended to win the Tour in the past.

“Vincenzo has different characteristics to the others and has a very good head.”

Marco Pantani is the last Italian to have won the Tour, triumphing back in 1998. The country has had a long wait since then, although Ivan Basso went close with third in 2004 and second in 2005.

He has however been unable to fight for the final overall win since then, with Nibali now the best chance of an Italian victor.

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