After Saturday's stage to Oropa, Nibali was angry and disappointed to have lost 43 seconds to Dumoulin in the final two kilometres and did not stop until he reached the team bus four kilometres down the climb. Today, he eventually eased after 300 metres, gradually coming to a halt and sharing his thoughts with members of the media fast and fit enough to pursue him. He was happy but also resigned to the fact that the 100th Giro d'Italia could be slipping out of his reach.
"My legs felt good today and so I had a go," he said calmly about the stage.
"The climb up to Bergamo Alto suited a late attack and so I had to go. Of course, my rivals didn't let me get away but I was happy to have tried."
Nibali seems to need an attack or a good performance to boost his moral, even if it gains him little or nothing. His Sicilian pride drives his ambition, while a defeat always appears to hurt his self-confidence.
Saturday hurt his pride hard. He was simply unable to respond when Dumoulin and other riders kicked again in the final two kilometres of the fast climb to Oropa. If the climb had been even longer he could have lost more than 43 seconds and lost any chance of winning the Giro d'Italia for the third time.
He sits fourth overall, 3:40 down on Dumoulin. He is much close to a spot on the podium, only 19 seconds down on Thibaut Pinot and 59 seconds down on Nairo Quintana but for now that is of little consolation.
Time gaps never lie and so Nibali knows he faces a huge fight to turn the Giro d'Italia upside down in the final mountain stages. He has done in the past and did it last year, but is pragmatic and almost resigned about his chances this year.
"I lost something yesterday and I was disappointed but what can I do?" he asked, revealing his form is good but perhaps just not good enough this year against a superb Dumoulin.
"I can't complain about my form, the numbers add up and show it's good. The fact is that the level at the Giro d'Italia is really high. Some people are stronger than me. I've always paid a price on the climbs we've covered so far."
"The Giro d'Italia isn't over but I'm quite far behind Dumoulin now. If Tom wins I can only go up to him, shake his hand and congratulate him. I can only give my very best. There's nothing else I can do."