Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is quietly confident of gaining time on his key rivals in the Giro d'Italia mountain time trial on Thursday and hopes the 20.6km test against the clock will finally see him win a stage in this year's race.
The Sicilian has an excellent track record in cronoscalata, as mountain time trials are called in Italian. He saved his energy during Wednesday's long stage from Caravaggio to Vicenza, finishing 19th, 19 seconds behind winner Giovanni Visconti (Movistar).
He again took advantage of a helicopter provided by the Astana team to hop over the hills to his hotel near the start in Mori, south of Trento.
"It's difficult to make a prediction about how it will go, but it's better for me that Evans starts ahead of me, that allows me to know his time splits," Nibali said in the daily race leader's press conference.
"I've not ridden many mountain time trials before in the Giro, but I've usually gone ok. I think I was second in Nevegal (2011) and fourth in Plan des Corones (2010). I'd like to win a stage, either tomorrow or in the mountains but it's never easy. I've been defending the pink jersey for a long time. Gaining time is the most important thing and if I can win too, then why not."
Nibali forgot that he finished 18th in the 2008 mountain time trial to Plan des Corones. The record book also show that he is the official winner of the 2011 stage to Nevegal after stage winner Alberto Contador was disqualified following his positive test at the Tour de France.
Deserved winner, whatever the weather
Nibali leads Cadel Evans (BMC) by 1:26, with Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky) third at 2:46 and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) fourth at 3:53.
He said he would be happy if his lead was up to two minutes before the final mountain stages in the Dolomites.
"Yeah, that'd be a good gap to have. But it's difficult to say if that will happen because Cadel is always up there, he's riding well, so we'll see what happens tomorrow," he said.
Nibali has a firm grip on the Giro d'Italia. The widely expected changes to the final mountain stages due to bad weather could help his cause but he modestly refused to accept he is already the moral winner of the Giro after is strong and consistent performance throughout the race.
"It's difficult to say if I feel I deserve to be the winner, but as I've said before, I'd actually prefer all the climbs in the mountain stages because for me its be easier for me to control my rivals," he said.
"Cold conditions are not a problem, its if it is cold and it rains that things could go wrong. But the cold and rain would be a problem or everyone, not just me."