Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) went on the attack yet again at the Giro d'Italia but yet again came up empty-handed, failing to gain time on any of his overall rivals in the hilly stage 11 finale around Asolo.
Indeed at the finish the Sicilian lost 13 seconds to Andrey Amador, who made a spectacular attack with race leader Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) in the finale, as it became evident that the Movistar team is trying to play a twin-leader strategy with the Costa Rican rider and Alejandro Valverde.
Valverde was quick to jump on Nibali's wheel on the descent of the Forcella Mostaccin climb with 18km to go but then refused to work with him to protect Amador's overall classification placing, just 24 seconds down on Jungels. It was the moment that Nibali realised he faces a testing game of cycling chess with Movistar at the Giro d'Italia and did not waste the opportunity to questions Valverde's hesitation.
"Every opportunity could be worth it, it could be the right move. We're here to race, not to go for a stroll," he told Cyclingnews and other media at the Giro d'Italia from the steps of the Astana team bus after the stage.
"When you see a chance, it's only right to go for it, and even to try surprise moves and counter attacks. That's racing. It didn't work out today but if it had, we could have gained 30 or 40 seconds, which could have been really important in the fight for the overall classification."
Nibali gesticulated to Valverde and Esteban Chaves to share the work after they opened a gap on their rivals in the final rolling roads above Asolo but the Spaniard only rolled through and refused to commit to the attack.
"I told him to work to but he said ‘no, no' and said he had Amador behind. He wasn't convinced it would work and so we sat up. Then when we got caught, Amador attacked…" Nibali explained.
"It was perhaps difficult to do something today but it made me think that Movistar is now racing with two riders, I think they want to try to play the GC with two riders. But if Valverde wanted to gain time today he could have worked with me and it would have happened. He didn't and so that's what makes me think about their tactics." Today we missed chance to gain time on people like Pozzovivo, Majka, Kruijswijk and Zakarin."
Nibali knows that every second could be vital in this finely balanced Giro d'Italia, hence his attack. Yet he also knows that a clear mind and the right tactics will be also be decisive if has to fight against two Movistar riders.
"It's important to stay calm and focused. There's still a lot of racing ahead of us and a lot of climbing to do, which will reveal who is really riding well," he warned.
Nibali could be down one teammate as Valerio Agnoli crashed. His team confirmed that he has possibly fractured his elbow and other trauma to the bone. He also has a cut on his chin that required two stitches. Despite his injuries, Agnoli has expressed wanted to continue on in the race.
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.