Stage eight of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday may have looked a snoozer for the GC riders for those say watching on the couch. However, beneath the surface, tensions were boiling between two of the race’s veteran GC rivals.
Nibali and his team piled on the pressure at the front of the bunch when Fuglsang punctured on the long descent off the Monte Sant’Angelo in the middle of yesterday’s stage into Vieste, leaving the Dane and his five Astana teammates desperately chasing back for 10 kilometers.
“Once the Giro is over, Astana and Trek are probably not best friends, but it’s part of the game” Fuglsang said Saturday night.
With Fuglsang dropping back to his team car for assistance, Nibali and his helpers piled on at the front, putting a minute into the Astana captain, who sits just 18 seconds back on “The Shark.”
“I have not seen the TV pictures at the time of writing, but Trek started by leading on the descent, and they probably got a little extra when they heard that I was punctured,” Fuglsang wrote in a column on BT.dk. “It caused a bit of panic in our team car, but luckily it only lasted for a short time.”
“That meant I sat in a group behind the front field until Trek slowed down and our group got up to the front again. I was not afraid of not coming back, but it was a strange move by Trek. For there is an unwritten rule that one does not sit up to lead when another has a problem. It is not okay to try to profit from it.”
The Fuglsang – Nibali polemica is yet another example of the tensions created in a sport dictated by unofficial codes of conduct. Pro racing is riddled with tensions and traumas arising from supposed derivation from the line of correctness, from the infamous “chain-gate” when Alberto Contador attacked a struggling Andy Schleck on the Port de Balès in 2010 to Movistar’s move in last year’s Vuelta a España when a crash brought down several GC rivals.
“I stuck to Nibali a bit afterward,” Fuglsang wrote. “As I rode past him, I told him he had better watch out the next time he stopped to pee, that he should choose his moment with care. He did not quite understand the fun of it and went into a defensive position.”
Fuglsang forecasted a tough day in the saddle during Sunday’s ninth stage, an unrelentingly lumpy grind through mountainous terrain culminating in a summit finish at Roccarraso. With the classification places behind pink jersey Joao Almeida closely packed, there will be a lot to race for going into the first rest day Monday.
While Fuglsang says Saturday’s incident is a matter of “case closed,” the Dane will no doubt be watching his Trek-Segafreo foe closely as he looks to pull back an 18-second deficit on the Sicilian on Sunday. Fuglsang currently sits seventh overall at 1:19.
“In principle, I have no problem with him,” Fuglsang said. “He has shown a little more of a problem with me. But we are also both fighting to win one of the world’s biggest bike races.”
“There may be some excitement, but there is also a lot at stake. You could call it a psychological war. There is nothing more in it.”