It’s the off-season, a time when pro riders dream of wild and unrealistic exploits.
Michele Scarponi, switching teams from Lampre to Astana, made his new bosses Alexander Vinokourov and Vincenzo Nibali happy with his latest bold statements.
Scarponi plans to not only help Nibali beat Chris Froome in the Tour but will aim for a podium himself in the Giro d’Italia.
How he’s going to deliver on both those plans is questionable but hey, it’s November — he can say anything crazy thing he wants. (Tyler Farrar is going to beat Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel for three stages wins in Le Tour. Yeah, why not?)
Scarponi, a man implicated in the Operacion Puerto doping scandal and much later caught working with dope devil Michele Ferrari, is thrilled by the idea of helping Nibali become the first Italian to win the Tour since the EPO Pirate in 1998.
“Helping Nibali win the Tour and being beside one of the most important riders motivates me. If it goes as well as I hope, then it’s going to be a great Tour for Vincenzo,” said Scarponi. Vino places a little gold star next to Scarponi’s name and hands him an extra bowl of pasta.
However, Scarponi can’t help himself, by golly, he’s Italian and though he’d need to be 100% fresh to help Nibali in France, he wants that Giro podium. “My goal is to have a great Giro and to help Nibali at the Tour — clearly, that won’t be easy. To race the Giro and Tour is already difficult enough. Maybe I can achieve a top three but really, I can’t be tired at the Tour because I gave everything I had at the Giro.”
Therein lies the rub. If Scarponi gets off to a good start in the Giro, will he be able to control himself in his home grand tour? If after ten days or two weeks, he’s close to the podium, he’s going full gas and will show up in France with tired legs. (That might also prove the case for Sky’s Richie Porte, who’s slated to tackle the Giro.)
These days riding both the Giro and Tour at a high level seems too much to ask for a super climbing domestique. That doesn’t mean Scarponi can’t hit the front for a day in the French mountains but being the go-to guy on the final climb for every stage in the Alps and Pyrenees seems a tall order.
But hey, it’s November, a time when athletes experience a selective amnesia towards the suffering they went through the season before. In the off-season, everyone is superhuman, capable of conquering the Giro and Tour, back-to-back. In November, everyone forgets the agony and crushing fatigue and how hard Sky smacked them in the face.
Scarponi is an old pro. He knows exactly what to say as the start of his Astana contract. We’re betting that Jakob Fuglsang will be a lot more helpful to Nibali in the Tour than Scarponi.