Despite taking possession of the yellow jersey of the Critérium du Dauphiné at Villard-de-Lans on Friday, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has acknowledged that he is still short of his best as he continues his preparation towards the Tour de France.
After limiting his losses at Pra-Loup the previous day, Nibali was on the attack for 130 of stage six’s 183 kilometres, eventually taking second place on the stage behind Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and divesting Tejay van Garderen (BMC) of the yellow jersey, though the Sicilian has a different garment in mind.
“I’m looking for answers with a view to the Tour. That’s the yellow jersey that interests me,” Nibali said, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. “I have to say that my history has taught me that for the Tour it’s never good to go too strongly at the Dauphiné. I still feel like I’m missing a bit of sharpness, and I hope to get that in the second part of the month when I go to train at the Passo San Pellegrino.”
Up to now, Nibali’s 2015 campaign has followed a template very similar to the one that ultimately led to overall victory at the Tour de France a year ago. Still without a win, Nibali responded to his – relative – setback at Pra-Loup by going on the offensive early on Friday.
“It was a question of pride because I hadn’t gone as I’d wanted the day before. I wanted to redeem myself,” Nibali said. “I think the public will have enjoyed it.
“I’d already said it to [Michele] Scarponi the evening before: ‘If my legs respond I’ll try to invent something.’ ‘You’re crazy,’ he replied. I saw that it was raining and I quite like when the weather is like that. I felt good so I tried. There was a bit of madness behind it.”
In the overall standings, Nibali nows leads Rui Costa by 29 seconds and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) by 30, while van Garderen lies 5th at 42 seconds and Chris Froome (Sky) is in 7th place, 1:21 back, but he is aware that a tough final weekend awaits. Stage 7 to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc features no fewer than five first category climbs while Sunday’s finale features a summit finish at Modane.
“A few years ago, I spotted that this was a race that had never been won by an Italian, I think that’s almost a unique case,” Nibali said. “But the last two stages are very tough, two summit finishes with a lot of mountains beforehand. I’ve got very sore legs now and I’m wondering who’s going to be able to do the stage tomorrow [Saturday]? I spent a lot of energy and I’ll need to see how I recover. People like Froome, van Garderen, [Romain] Bardet and the others… They’ll certainly want to respond. I’m expecting it.”