Three years after he took his first Vuelta a España, Vincenzo Nibali ended stage two of the 2013 Vuelta donning the red jersey of leader again and looking every inch the pre-race favourite he was supposed to be.
16th on the stage, Nibali now leads by eight seconds over stage winner Nicolas Roche and if the Astana rider and 2013 Giro d’Italia winner was worried by getting to the top spot so soon, he showed no sign of being concerned during the post-race press conference.
“This final climb wasn’t ideal for me, not steep enough, and I was following other guys’ wheels rather than trying to attack,” the 28-year-old Nibali said.
“But my condition is good and I wanted to make the most of it. I had great support from my squad all the way up the climb, [Denmark’s Jakob] Fuglsang was with me, Alessandro Vanotti and Andrey Zeits as well, and I can be very satisfied with how it all went.”
Movistar made a lot of the running on the final climb, but Nibali said that was not a concern.
“We knew that Movistar were pushing it for Valverde, and that wasn’t a surprise. The finale was a bit complicated, it all stopped a little when Roche attacked, and then the pace picked up again,” said Nibali, whose adversaries Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) did snatch back two seconds in the last-minute dash for the line. “They’re the biggest two rivals, so it’s a question of controlling things with the team.”
Indeed, Nibali taking the jersey so early raises all sorts of interesting questions, such as whether Astana will try and hold the lead for the next 20 days and whether, in such a tough race, with 10 more summit finishes to come, that is not overly ambitious.
Only time will tell, but Nibali has made his intentions plain: winning two Grand Tours in a single year. And so far, so very good.
“We’ll just have to go on the day by day, and see what happens,” Nibali said. “Right now, I’m just pleased to be where I am.”