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Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) after a warm stage.
2010 Vuelta a España winner praises the Brit's climbing skills
Following an impressive ride on the Vuelta a España's summit finish on stage nine, where Sky leader Bradley Wiggins finished fourth, defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) has said he now counted the Brit as one of his biggest favourites for the overall victory of the race.
"After the climb he did, I see him now as one of the greatest favourites," the Italian told AS.com when asked about Wiggins' performance. Indeed, the Sky rider forced the pace on the final climb of La Covantilla, and even if his greatest strength may be his time trialling - which he will be able to show in Salamanca today - Wiggins' climbing skills were truly impressive.
"Some (favourites) are time trial specialists and others are climbers. There are still some summit finishes to go, as well as the 47km race against the clock. If there is something that last year's Vuelta taught me, it's that these races are won with regularity, day by day. There is still a lot to come before Madrid," he added.
Wiggins himself was "delighted" with his climbing performance on Sunday and is expected to make the best of his time trial abilities on Monday's 47km-course, certainly imporving his 13th placing on GC. "Tomorrow is where I am expecting to make the most of my gains and everything I earned here was a bonus - it was a fantastic finish and it couldn’t have gone any better," said the Sky rider in the finish on Sunday.
Nibali, meanwhile, finished sixth on the stage and is now third on general classification.