Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) gave another controlled display of race leadership on the first mountain finish of the Giro d'Italia during Tuesday's stage 10, even managing to gain time on all his rivals except stage winner Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky).
Nibali's Astana team is still underpowered, with veteran domestique Paolo Tiralongo struggling with the effects of a bad crash and illness and talented neo-pro Fabio Aru hit by a cold after the rain of the stage to Florence. Yet the Sicilian never looked ruffled when Team Sky set the pace and then unleashed Uran, with even a gear problem not stopping him from taking third on the stage and so picking up eight bonus seconds. He also took another four seconds in the final sprint, four kilometres from the finish.
Nibali was asked several questions about Wiggins and Uran but is rightly now more concerned about Cadel Evans (BMC), who was stronger than Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) on the steep part of the climb.
Evans is now 41 seconds down, with Uran third at 2:04, Wiggins fourth at 2:05, Robert Gesink (Team Blanco) at 2:12, and Scarponi at 2:13.
"The Giro is still very long and there are some important stages to come," he said wisely.
"It could have been difficult for lots of people after the rest day, but we rode well. [Tanel] Kangert and [Valerio] Agnoli stayed close to me. Wiggins lost something, and I was surprised that Scarponi did, too. We saw that Evans was solid, and so he's becoming the biggest rival now."
Mechanical problems have troubled several riders at this year's Giro d'Italia, and it was Nibali's turn on the two climbs, struggling with his chain. He stopped and put it back on during the first climb and quickly recovered when his chain seemed to jump as he changed from the small ring to the big ring to accelerate in the final kilometre.
"I never panicked, I stayed focused," he said.
"I had a very low gear for the climb, I was using a 36 x52 chainset, that's a big change for the front mech to make. So my chain came off, but I put it on with my finger on the first climb. It wasn't a problem. When you take equipment choices, you have to take risks."
Understanding Team Sky's tactics
Nibali had expected Uran to attack in the final part of the climb and claimed he was happy to let him go and ride defensively, at least in this stage. However with Uran and Wiggins now third and fourth overall, he knows he will have to read their tactics carefully.
"We expected it but we rode defensive because we've got a good margin," he said confidently.
"Wiggins lost a bit but he showed he's riding well, and they took control of the race and won the stage.
"We've got a good gap on Uran, and they're close together. We'll mark them closely and manage it carefully. it depends on what Team Sky decides to do. We have to be good to understand their tactics in the stages ahead."