Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) seemed in shock after he crossed the line at the summit of the Grossglockner on stage 13 of the Giro d'Italia. He finished 1:36 behind Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) and the Spaniard gained a further 12 seconds thanks to the time bonus for second place on the stage. Nibali moved past Kanstantsin Sivtsov (HTC-Highroad) into second place overall but is now 3:09 behind Contador.
Italian television pundits have already started asking if Liquigas-Cannondale should have opted for Ivan Basso as team leader. Nibali was mobbed by the Italian media, who are trying to understand why he is unable to even respond to Contador's attacks. But Nibali struggled to come up with some real answers.
"There was nothing I could do against Contador. I tried to hang on to Contador but he had an extra gear and it was impossible," he said after he had pulled on some warm clothes.
"We tried to do what we could but it was pointless. I think everyone saw that. I don't think there is much else to say. Scarponi tried to attack him a few times and I tried to follow him but neither worked and he just rode away from us."
Nibali is on the ropes after taking several body blows from Contador. He appears close to accepting defeat but knows he has to try and bounce back because Saturday's stage includes the climb (and descent) of the Crostis and finishes on the very steep Zoncolan. Sunday's stage is a 229km marathon across the Dolomites to the Gardeccia with another five major climbs.
"We've got to try and come up with something but what?" he asked with a hint of desperation.
"I'm not giving up yet. But we can only hope he cracks but he didn't today and this turned out to be a tough stage after all the climbing, the cold and the rain."