Stage winner Alejandro Valverde suggested that Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) was going to win the Giro d'Italia thanks to his strength and know how, and the Dutchman seems to have learnt quickly from other Grand Tour winners by keeping his time at the post-race press conference to a minimum after the finish in Andalo.
As race leader, Kruijswijk has to do live 'flash' television interviews, climb on the podium to collect the maglia rosa, do further interviews for Eurosport and Italian television, speak to radio and non-rights holder television and often go to anti-doping, all before heading to the press centre to attend a final press conference reserved for the written press. The whole process can take up an hour, which cuts into the limited recovery time after each stage.
Despite the intense 132km of racing to Andalo, where Kruijswijk was isolated and came under attack, he always looked in control and was able to surge to the finish with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and perhaps even gift him the stage victory. It was a show of strength and patronage. As Nibali cracked and lost more time and with Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) on the back foot all day, Kruijswijk seemed to take total control of the Giro d'Italia.
He even looked fresh and well recovered when he finally sat down in the press conference, responding questions with the same ease that he had responded to the many attacks from his rivals during the stage. His confidence also seems to be growing as his overall lead extends to three minutes.
"I'm in first so maybe he (Valverde) is right, but you can never underestimate you rivals," he said.
"Maybe it looked I was in control but there was a lot of attack on the first climb. I saw it coming because Movistar set the pace early on. But I knew the guys I had to watch and so reacted quickly on the attacks and knew that if I followed them and if we attacked together, there wouldn't be many riders up there. It was a good situation to be in. I felt good today."
However he quickly kept any euphoria under control.
"It was a short race but not the race of my life," he argued. "This week have to race all the stage like they're the race of my life. I expect a lot of attacks. If I can maintain this position it'll be good."
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Two transition stages take the Giro d'Italia to Cassano d'Adda near Milan and then to Pinerolo near Turin. The final big mountain stages come on Friday and Saturday, with the Colle dell'Agnello, the Colle della Bonette and the Colle della Lombarda all well over 2000 metres high. They will be the final battlegrounds of this year's race and Kruijswijk is almost looking forward to them, such is his strength and grip on the maglia rosa.
"On paper they look really difficult but I like the long climbs and I think it'll suit me like last Saturday," sending a message to is rivals.
"I felt really good today, I like to race in the pink jersey and I think I showed myself up front. I think that's important when you wear this jersey. Today I was upfront with only three guys and that shows I'm still feeling good. I'm also in the right position each. Now I hope to do this during the next few stages too."
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