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Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Astana rider takes aim at Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) dashed from the finish of the Giro del Trentino to catch a flight to Belgium for Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège with tired legs but sky high morale after winning the mountain stage to Sega di Ala and taking overall victory in the Giro del Trentino.
The Sicilian attacked midway up the 16km climb and gradually gained the four minutes he needed to take overall victory from Maxime Bouet (Ag2r-La Mondiale). He also distanced all his key Giro d'Italia rivals to win alone, with Bradley Wiggins losing 1:39 after a mechanical problem and a chase cost him dear.
Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Sella Italia) finished second overall, at 21 seconds with Bouet third at 55 seconds. Wiggins sank to fifth at 1:40.
"The best thing about today is that I managed to win and put my arms up in celebration here. This is a great, very tough climb," Nibali said.
"We were looking for answers from this race. Yesterday we went close to a stage win with Tiralongo but I wanted to win because a win helps your morale. This win is very important for that reason."
Nibali won Tirreno-Adriatico with a similarly audacious but well-executed attack. He has confirmed he is one of best and most consistent stage racers in the peloton.
"I think the difference this year is that I know I've got a team that backs me 100%. I won both Tirreno and Trentino on the last day. That means I didn’t put a step wrong."
Nibali refused to accept victory in Trentino makes him the favourite for the Giro d'Italia. But he knows he one of the real contenders for the maglia rosa.
"I did a great Tour de France last year, I've won the Vuelta and I've done well in the Giro in the past. I've proved my ability," he said.
"The Giro is played out over 21 days and something can happen every day. I think Wiggins is the rider to beat at the Giro d'Italia. It's been a hard week but I saw Basso up there and Evans too. They'll be my rivals at the Giro. Scarponi too and other riders like Hesjedal, who is riding the Classics."
Nibali will cross paths with the 2012 Giro d'Italia winner at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. Despite four days of hard racing in the Dolomites, Nibali is confident of doing well in Belgium.
"Today was a big effort because we did the last climb very hard. Perhaps it can make a difference but probably not much," he said.
"I'll be up against the usual names in Belgium: Gilbert, Kreuziger, who won the Amstel Gold Race, Dani Moreno and Joaquim Rodriguez. They've all prepared specifically for the northern Classics, while I've raced here. I've watched them on television but I don’t know how they're riding. I've done a different build up but I'll be good. We'll see what happens on Sunday."