The winner of the Tour de France 2014 Vincenzo Nibali paid a beautiful tribute to the one who had helped him achieve this success with the Astana team, the Dutchman Lieuwe Westra, who died on Saturday at 40 after a long depression.
It is a bereaved Vincenzo Nibali who spoke this Monday in the columns of The Gazetta Dello Sport. Like the whole peloton, the newly retired learned on Sunday of the death of Lieuwe Westra at just 40 years old, after a long depression. But if the Shark of Messina was particularly moved to learn the news, it is because the Dutch rider had been a great help to him in 2014, when he won his only Tour de France, in the jersey of ‘Astana. “I hadn’t heard of him in years, but his death filled my heart with sadness. Much sadness, writes Nibali. Lieuwe was a great guy, he lived for the bike. He didn’t talk much, but he knew exactly how to move through the peloton. And in team meetings, I remember how happy he was every time he was given the task of going into the breakaway. Not speaking the same language was not a big problem, we understood each other. During the famous cobblestone stage of the 2014 Tour de France, where I won time over all my rivals, his help was vital, first by being in the breakaway and then by working for me. He was crucial, it was a real pleasure to have him in the team”, continues the quadruple winner in the Grand Tour.
Three seasons together
Vincenzo Nibali and Lieuwe Westra ran together during the 2014, 2015, 2016 seasons for Astana, then the Dutchman decided to retire at 34, while the Italian continued at Bahrain-Merida, Trek Segafredo before finishing at Astana in 2022 and putting his bike away at 38. Although he never tested positive, Westra admitted in his 2018 biography that he had used cortisone several times during his career, especially when he was at Astana. But that’s obviously not what Vincenzo Nibali wants to remember from him.