Is he ready to switch?
Recent claims that Astana-Acca Due O fired Hanna Solovey because she refused to switch her citizenship to Kazakhstan has been met with denial from Astana boss Alexander Vinokourov. “I think she was excluded from the squad entirely on other issues.”
However, according to a source close to Astana, Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali has also been asked to become a Kazakhstan citizen. The Italian was reportedly asked to leave his training camp at Mount Teide in Tenerife and come to Astana, the capital city to discuss the matter.
“The subject has come up several times, Vino would very much like to have Nibali made a full commitment — bot just to the team, but the country,” said Mikael Sadykov, Minister for Sport for the Kazakh Federation. “Vincenzo loves it here even more than Italy. This is where his heart is and we are close to an accord.”
However, Nibali has made no statement about whether this is merely a suggestion or a threat — or whether his position within the team will be compromised if he declines to switch. Director Sportif Giuseppe Martinelli would only say that no paperwork has been filed.
With the Tour de France just over two weeks away, the Solovey-Nibali citizenship story threatens to become a disruptive element. however, Nibali insists he is, as usual, tranquillo.
Vinokourov wrote Nibali a strongly worded letter over the Italian’s lack of performance leading up to the Tour de France. It’s believed that Vino as penned a second letter outlining his position on citizenship. One source with knowledge of the letter says that it includes the promise of a vacation home in the foothills of the Zailiysky Alatau mountains outside Almaty, a Mercedes SUV and an honorary position of General in the Kazakstan army.
“Vino really sweetened the pot. Solve wasn’t worth that kind of offer but Nibali is a true champion.” said Sadykov. It is not everyday you are offered citizenship on the most beautiful country in the world. And what other Tour de France winner can say we’s also a military general?”
It remains to be seen whether the Shark from Messina will bite at the citizenship offer. No doubt he has already witnessed the fate of Hanna Solovey. However, Vinokourov is putting on a lot of pressure. “What is Sicily? It’s the below the boot of Italy — I mean, the boot is actually kicking Sicily in the face if you look at the map,” said Vinokourov. “Kazakhstan is ten times as pretty as Italy and the women are 100 times for beautiful.”