Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) showed his rivals that even if this weekend’s two mountain stages in the Dolomites are scaled back due to bad weather, he’s still the strongest man in the race and a well-deserved winner.
In the challenging 20.6k time mountain time trial from Mori to Polsa, Nibali took his first stage win of the race and extended his overall lead as both Cadel Evans (BMC) and Rigoberto Uran faltered. The Australian is now 4:02 down with Uran and his retro-mullet another ten seconds behind. Wave goodbye to the Shark, fellas.
“I think that Cadel Evans has hidden in the peloton a bit so far, so I didn’t really know his real condition,” Nibali said afterwards. “I thought he might do a bit better today but he was my reference point out on the course, and when I realised I was catching him, it made me push a little harder.”
Evans has surprised nearly everyone with his high performance in this Giro. According to BMC boss Jim Ochowicz, Cadel has cemented his Tour captain role. We still insist that the 36 year old is running out of gas in the third week and that this Giro’s nasty weather will take an extra toll in July. That said, we’re now calling the Aussie by his new nickname “Tenacious C.”
As far as Uran is concerned, Twisted Spoke has consistently pointed out that the vaunted Sky machine does not function well in miserable weather. Wiggins succumbed to cold, illness and a sudden fear of wet mountain descents. (It’s Andy Schleck minus the cracked pelvis.) While Uran has managed his resources well, Nibali continues to pull away despite today’s driving rain and cold temperatures. Mother Nature remains the uncontrollable element in the Sky master plan.
Nibali is winning the Corsa Rosa and proving that he handles crappy weather better than any of his rivals. Should France provide the same awful weather, then Froome and Wiggins will lose the Tour to Alberto Contador or whoever else likes a good downpour.
In a Giro d’Italia that commentator Robert Millar called “survival training,” Nibali appears to be the most physically resilient rider and the one with the most confidence in his bike handling skills. The man has shown amazing stage race consistency whether it’s the Tour, Giro or Vuelta a Espana. Chapeau with rain flap.
Race officials have already been forced to cut Friday’s climbs of the Gavia and Stelvio while Saturday’s Passo Tre Croci is also in serious jeopardy. However, Nibali has already proved his dominance so he doesn’t need those mountains to continue making the point.
“From my point of view, I can say that it doesn’t change much. I feel good and I feel that I can manage the race with those climbs,” said Nibali. “But then if they cut some of the climbs from the stages, maybe it will be easier for my team to manage the race. But I showed my condition today, so I’m tranquillo.”
Yes, tranquillo is having a four minute lead over your nearest competitor with three stages left — and the Gavia and Stevio gone. Barring an epic collapse, Nibali will ride into Brescia in the maglia rosa.
Chrono props to Samuel Sanchez (Euskatel-Euskadi) as the little climber proved he can still ride a strong time trial when it’s uphill. Michele Scarponi was the second fastest rider through the intermediate checkpoint and managed to keep enough speed to finish fourth. The good friend of Dr Ferrari moves within one minute of Uran and the final podium step. Let’s hope he fails.
Today in the pounding rain, Vincenzo Nibali demonstrated one of this obvious strengths: sharks like water.