Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) admitted that he expected to lose time to Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on the steep finish to stage 8 of the Vuelta a España at San Lorenzo de El Escorial on Saturday.
While Rodriguez duly fulfilled expectations by bounding clear on the climb’s most vertiginous slopes to take the stage and the red jersey, Nibali’s performance was below his own usual standards. The Sicilian failed to stay in contact with the strongest chasers, and came home 32 seconds down on Rodriguez in 23rd place. He explained afterwards that his cause hadn’t been helped by his positioning at the red kite.
“It was a hard stage. In the finale I had to make a big effort and I also got a little bottled up,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “But that’s ok, I had expected to lose something to Rodriguez on finishes like this.”
Nibali was a faller on the previous stage to Talavera de la Reina, injuring his right shoulder blade and hip, but he was reluctant to blame Saturday’s sub-par showing solely on his injuries. He now lies 4th overall, 45 seconds down on Rodriguez.
“Maybe it has to be taken into account a little, but I don’t want to look for excuses,” he said. “For the time trial [on Monday – ed.] I’m counting on being 100 percent again.”
Scarponi shows his hand
While Nibali struggled to find his rhythm on the sharply-pitched haul to the finish, his fellow countryman Michele Scarponi enjoyed his best day on the Vuelta to date. The Lampre-ISD rider was the first of the contenders to strike in the final kilometre, anticipating Rodriguez with an early attack of his own, and although he had to give best to the rampant Spaniard, Scarponi was quietly content with his second place finish.
“It was the only way to try and beat him, but they had designed this finale especially for him,” Scarponi told Gazzetta. “He’s more explosive than me and he showed it.”
Rather than attempt to follow Rodriguez’s fierce burst on the 27% slopes of the final climb, Scarponi followed a sensible rhythm to the line and succeeded in limiting his losses to 9 seconds. He now lies 5th overall, 51 seconds down on Rodriguez.
“In this Vuelta, Cordoba was the only place where I made a mistake. I wasn’t in the right place when Nibali attacked on the descent. But I feel my form growing, I’m confident. There’s still a very long way to go.”