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Martinelli: "Wiggins out of contention but Uran, Evans and Scarponi still dangerous"
While Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) suffered in the rain and lost any chance of overall victory at the Giro d'Italia, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) enjoyed another trouble-free day in the race leader's pink jersey during stage 12 on Thursday.
The Italian was able to perhaps sit back and smile during the long transfer across the north of Italy towards Busseto, knowing that he had survived another day in pink while perhaps his biggest rival was considering heading home rather than planning attack is the rapidly approaching Alpine stages.
As race leader, Nibali is obliged to attend a post-race press conference after every stage. But with lots of kilometres to cover on the autostrada he let directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli do the talking.
The subject on everybody's mind was Wiggins' bad day and the loss of the Tour de France winner as a major rival.
"I think he's really ill. I could see it a bit in the way he gave up, he didn't fight to get back on like he did on the other days. I think that in this Giro he has had a few problems and they're still making themselves felt," Martinelli said outside the Astana team bus.
"It changes a lot. I've always said up to now that Wiggins most dangerous rider and he was the one we feared the most because he’s a great champion. You don't win the Tour de France by chance, so certainly, him out of the 'classifica' gives us a bit of morale. Uran, Evans and Scarponi are still dangerous. Uran is a good leader for Sky and he's going very well at the moment and he’ll be an hard nut to crack. But I think that the most dangerous rider isn't there anymore."
Martinelli refuted suggestions that the Astana team is not at its best after illness struck Paolo Tiralongo and Fabio Aru, and Frederik Kessiakoff struggled to provide support in the mountains.
"The race is getting harder and harder, but I think a lot of teams are in the same position as we are. The important thing is that the leader is well. if the leader is well then the team is well," he prophesied, admitting that leading the race and wearing maglia rosa has its responsibilities as well as glory.
"The worst part of it is after the race because you have to do the prize ceremonies and all the rest, but I think that a champion has to be ready for all of that, too. It's better to be up front and have the lead than be behind."
Like ever directeur sportif, Martinelli is anxiously scrutinizing the weather forecast for the coming days and the big Alpine stage at the weekend. He is no doubt hoping the finish on the Galibier will be cut if the snow causes problems but refused to say as much.
"It's going to be the same for everyone. I just hope that we can do all of the stages as planned and that the riders don’t have to risk too much in the mountains," he said.
"I don't think the weather will affect things too much. It's the same riders who will be up there fighting."