Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) said that Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) showed a lack of respect by waiting for him and then later attacking him during the final 500 metres of the gruelling climb up to the Zoncolan.
“I wanted to win the stage,” Nibali said shortly after the finish. “Everyone does his own race. I have not lost my soul. I’ve asked Contador to take a turn. I wanted to see how he was really. But he never gave me a turn. He attacked. I really think it was a lack of respect from him when he waited for me and attacked again.”
“Contador had everything in his favour today,” Nibali continued in a clear indication that the cancellation of the Monte Crostis by the commissaires was a decision that pleased the race leader more than the man currently in second place overall.
“That’s why people have booed Contador today,” Nibali said. “The UCI didn’t allow the Crostis to be climbed, and it was a different stage. I don’t know what would have happened with the Crostis. For sure, we didn’t make the mistake [of requesting its cancellation]. For us, the riders, safety was assured but the cars of the directeurs sportifs couldn’t assist us. But I don’t think I would have attacked Contador by riding strongly in the downhill of the Crostis. I’m not sure if it would have been worth taking that kind of risk.”
The climb of Tualis was a replacement for the Crostis but the race route was eventually diverted to avoid the village where the volunteers protested against the judges’ decision. However, Nibali asked his teammates to set a higher speed before the Zoncolan.
“I looked at doing everything I could to win the stage,” Nibali explained. “I felt good today, better than yesterday, and my teammates also felt good, with the exception of [Sylvester] Szmyd who is still sick. If not, it could have been a different outcome.
“We tried because this is a climb I know very well. I followed a regular rhythm and I accelerated later to drop Scarponi. I’m not an explosive climber. Unfortunately, Anton was in the front and we didn’t manage to catch him. I did everything I could.”
Amadio content with Nibali’s performance
Liquigas-Cannondale team manager Roberto Amadio was more pleased than his rider, however, praising Nibali’s efforts on the final climb.
"It's a good day for us. I think Vincenzo rode an excellent race today," he told Cyclingnews.
"The Zoncolan isn't his kind of climb and it's more suited to Anton, Contador and Scarponi. But he showed he's a great rider. He paced his effort perfectly."
Despite Nibali now being 3:20 behind Contador, Amadio insisted that Liquigas-Cannondale had not yet given up on overall victory.
"There's another hard stage tomorrow which is more suited to Vincenzo. Hopefully we can make some of his rivals suffer," he said.
"We're still riding to win. You never know what might happen. Tomorrow's stage is very tough. I know the climbs. Believe me, we'll see some great racing tomorrow too."
Asked about the decision to cut the Crostis climb from the stage and then a further 20km while the stage was underway because of a risk of protests from the tifosi, Amadio said it was the right decision.
"Things can change at the last minute. I can understand that the organisers were scared of the tifosi protesting. I think it was a wise decision so the Zoncolan was not affected."
Liquigas-Cannondale was one of five teams in favour of racing on the Crostis. "We were ready for the Crostis and we had ten people that were going to be along the descent with bikes and wheels," Amadio said.
"Then we changed plans when the climb was cut. I don't honestly think it would have changed the race, perhaps Nibali and Contador would have finished together."