VIncenzo Nibali has seen this movie a few times before. In July, in the Tour de France, in the high mountains of the Alps and Pyrenees. It’s not fun.
In the Tour de France, Nibali was often forced to submit to the collective force and will of Team Sky. Their relentless tempo crushed his hopes of defeating Chris Froome as he could do little but sit in the wheels behind the Sky train.
On stage 15 in the Giro d’Italia, the powerful Movistar squad of race leader Richard Carapaz gave Nibali much the same treatment. While Nibali attempted an attack on the steepest 18% section of the Passo del Mortirolo, he never eked out more than about 20 seconds.
Nibali had launched his attack seven kilometers from the summit and spent the next four dangling off the front, never really out of sight. After his initial acceleration and gap, he was unable to widen the distance. Meanwhile, Movistar, with Antonio Pedrero and Mikel Landa pulling for Carapaz, slowly ramped up the pace and reeled the Italian back in.
It was Movistar doing a perfect Team Sky imitation. Landa did the same work for Froome two seasons ago — and swore he’d never again sacrifice his own chances to win a grand tour. However, he appears committed to keeping Carapaz in the maglia rosa — barring a future bad turn of events for the Ecuadorian.
For his part, Carapaz sounded just like Froome as he assessed the stage after the finish. “We didn’t follow Nibali immediately,” he said. “We were the team with the biggest number of riders, with three of us, so we raced prudently, and we were able to disarm the attack. Landa and I made the call, and we were prudent in face of the attack of Nibali. We played it well with the team, we had riders up the road to help and we also had our teammates on the climb. We wanted to use our team to control the stage.”
How Vincenzo must long for a simple mano-a-mano battle with his GC rivals. Instead he’s stuck with Mano-a-Movistar.