Giro d’Italia: Vincenzo Nibali still confident despite losing time to Contador on Etna
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Monday, May 16, 2011

Giro d’Italia: Vincenzo Nibali still confident despite losing time to Contador on Etna

by Ben Atkins at 6:02 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
 
Liquigas-Cannondale team hoping to step up in the race’s second part and put Spanish rider into difficulty

vincenzo nibaliHaving finished third in the Giro d’Italia last year, behind teammate Ivan Basso, then going on to win the Vuelta a España, Liquigas-Cannondale’s Vincenzo Nibali has made this year’s Giro the main target of his 2011 season. That ambition took a bit of a blow in yesterday’s ninth stage to Mount Etna though, as Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) flew away from the rest of the favourites with just under 7km to go, and took 50 seconds out of everyone by the top.

The Sicilian now trails Contador by 1’21” but, as the Spanish rider himself has said, the race is far from over.

“I’ve got absolutely no regrets about how the Giro has played out up to now,” said Nibali. “Yesterday’s result was the most significant of the race so far and confirmed how strong Contador is. But I don’t think we can roll the closing credits on this race yet.

“The 1’21’’ advantage is definitely a good one but I’ve still got every intention of putting a dent in that: there will be plenty of opportunities from here to Milan. I’m feeling calm and know what I can do. I think I interpreted the race correctly yesterday on Etna.”

Unable to compete with Contador’s ferocious acceleration, Nibali and the others instead chose to ride their own pace in the hope of reeling in the Tour de France champion. His lead did reduce slightly in the very last part of the stage, but nibali hopes that improvements to his team in the coming week could hold the key to defeating Contador.

“Alberto rocketed off and countering that was impossible; it was better to gradually bring down the gap,” he explained. “But I think it’s more productive to look to the days ahead than to look back. So far some of the lads have only performed at 50% through no fault of their own but if we can get them back in form, we can set up the race for some attacks.

“Finding Contador’s weak spot isn’t easy but that’s what we’re here to try and do.”

The problem that Nibali and all the other favourites face though, when trying to defeat Contador, is that the Spaniard has not been beaten in a single Grand Tour since he took his first Tour de France in 2007.

Liquigas-Cannondale manager Roberto Amadio is determined to try though, and concurs with Nibali that the team has not been firing on all cylinders in the race so far.

“[Sylwester] Szmyd is running a slight temperature, and Agnoli and Capecchi aren’t as impressive as they want to be,” he confirmed. “They’re important riders and can provide invaluable support for Vincenzo when they perform to the max.

“I liked yesterday’s stage; it was intelligent in terms of tactics and the riding was really tenacious,” he continued. “Contador is the strongest rider, we already knew that though, but the Giro is far from over yet. The hardest part of the race is still to come and even though the terrain might suit the Spaniard better, it doesn’t mean there won’t be chances to make life difficult for him.

“Anyone can have a bad day,” he added. “We’ve just got to be smart enough to know when that is and exploit it.”

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