Vincenzo Nibali must have been feeling pretty frisky as he celebrated his Tour de France victory with his CanNibali fan club in Tuscany.
When asked for the 1000th time if he deserved to win Le Grand SHindig, given the abandons of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, he gave his clearest, most pointed reason why the answer was hell yeah.
“Cycling isn’t only about watts, power and strength on the climbs. You’ve got to know how to ride your bike,” said Niabli. “Froome laid it down three times in two days. I don’t know if that’s normal, if it was just bad luck or if he doesn’t know how to ride his bike.”
Despite Sky’s massive budget, nearly unlimited resources and obsession with sports science, Nibali basically said it came down to something as simple as knowing how to ride a bike. In other words, Froome is the best grand tour rider when the weather is perfect and there aren’t any cobblestones or dangerous descents and everybody in the peloton gives him some extra space.
Nibali threw in the “just bad luck” part in an effort to be understanding and not hammer the point too hard, but the message was difficult to miss — I’m the best all-round rider in the world and that’s what it takes to win the hardest bike race in the world.
The Italian seemed to take things even further — and perhaps it was the bubbly cava talking — when he gave his unimpressed view of SKy’s efforts in France. “Team Sky didn’t do anything. How could they think about winning if Porte blew up just three days after Froome quit?” Somewhere, Bradley Wiggins cracks a smile and raises a pint in honor of the Shark of Messina.
Froomie isn’t a good bike handler. In all the post Tour analysis, the what ifs, the re-hashes, the if onlys, Nibali put it down to Froome not being able to handle his Pinarello in all conditions. Wind, narrow Yorkshire lanes, cobblestones, wet roads, technical descents, a nervous peloton — those are the things that Nibali masters and Froome, for all his wattage, hasn’t managed to do.
Those are the reasons Nibali won the 2013 Giro d’Italia in apocalyptic conditions and the reasons he’s beaten Froome in stages races whenever the weather turns ugly and the temperatures drop precipitously.
Froome excels against the clock and on the steep grades of the Alps and Pyrenees but the tables turn quickly when Mother Nature decides to make the race more challenging and dangerous.
Highly unlikely that Froome will see any cobblestones on the route of the 2015 Tour de France. Low probability that his lieutenant Richie Porte will suffer thru another season with illness of every kind. Chances are better than 50-50 that the weather next year will be kinder to Sky and Froome and the entire peloton than this edition of the Tour.
Still, you can be sure that there will be several key moments when the wind and rain hit hard and Nibali attacks with a vengence. Froome better learn know how to ride his bike better.