CUENCA, Spain (VN) — Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), winner of the 2017 Vuelta a España’s first mountain stage, calmly looks ahead for his chance to take the lead from Chris Froome (Sky).
“Dimmi” or “Go ahead, tell me,” Nibali said to VeloNews leaning against Bahrain’s red and blue bus after stage seven’s finish in Cuenca.
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Covered in sweat, the winner of four grand tours needed a shower but calmly spent his time to explain what he needs to do to win the Vuelta.
“Our team already had success with the stage win. Chris Froome and Alberto Contador have shown to go very well as well even if Alberto lost sometime in the first mountains.
“But days like [Santa Lucía in Alcossebre], those very hard and explosive finishes, are not easy for me. I’ve never been an explosive type of rider for these short and steep finishes and I just tried to defend myself as much as I can on those. It’s OK, I am there in the classification, just at 30 seconds [36 seconds in fifth overall].”
This weekend, Nibali and the other stars including Froome, Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) will race two mountain stages. The steep Xorret de Catí finish with its short downhill and the Cumbre del Sol on Sunday.
In the second and third week, with longer climbs on the menu, ‘The Shark’ should have his space to attack again.
“In the past, my big days were always those days in the high mountains and on the long climbs. We need to also see if my condition is there and if it’s going to be there to help me when I need it.”
Which day could that be? “I don’t know!” Nibali said with a laugh.
“It’s not easy to find that perfect stage adapted to you, but if I have the form and there’s the chance, then for sure, I will find a way to take advantage in a stage.”
Nibali’s teammates including his brother Antonio arrived to the team bus and went on to shower. The Sicilian spoke about his third place overall in the Giro d’Italia this May, the new team put together by the prince of Bahrain and some of the teething problems. Injuries, like Ion Izagirre’s crash in stage 1 of the Tour de France, affected its 2017 season.
“The prince knows what it takes to win at high level sport because he competes so he understands,” coach and sport director Paolo Slongo said after Nibali went on the bus. “He sees the effort and all the guys are making in these races.
“The team has a three-year project, this is only the first year. It’s normal when a team starts off you have big costs for riders and infrastructure. You need two or three years to get going at full-speed, and you saw that with Team Sky and with other teams.”
Slongo turned his attention to the more immediate goal. He helped Nibali train specifically for the Vuelta a España after he placed third behind winner Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in the Giro d’Italia. Nibali wants to add a second Vuelta crown to his collection that includes one from the 2010 edition and also the 2014 Tour de France title and two Giro d’Italia titles.
“The stages that are most dangerous for him are these explosive types of stages,” Slongo said. “Next week, the stages begin to suit him.”