Leading Italian favourite Vincenzo Nibali says he is quietly satisfied with Astana having clinched third place behind Team Sky in the stage two team time trial at the Giro d'Italia despite not having many specialists in the squad.
Nibali lost 14 seconds to the Briton, a difference he said was minimal even if the Giro was only won by just 16 seconds in 2012. In the most immediate reference point between the two squads for team time trialling, the Giro di Trentino, Sky beat Astana by 13 seconds over a slightly shorter course, 14.1 kilometres, in the town of Lienz.
“It’s not too bad as a team performance goes, we can be pretty happy,” Nibali told reporters afterwards. “We can be pretty happy all round, considering the squad is mainly made up of climbers.”
“The course was extremely hard, and we fought this as a unit, I’m still feeling very positive about all of this. It’s the end of the race which counts, not how things look after stage two.”
“We were very consistent, we didn’t have any bad patches even though it was such a technical course, and to lose by a very small margin like that is pretty satisfying. I can be happy with that.”
Nibali was perhaps also satisfied because Sky will be working on the front of the race from a very early point, particularly if they have a ‘home rider’ leading overall. On Tuesday the race reaches its most southerly point, closest to Puccio’s home region of Sicily, and the British squad may feel morally obliged to defend the lead at least until there.
If Astana were surprisingly close to Sky, the other top Italian contender, Michele Scarponi and Lampre managed a far better performance than was perhaps expected, finishing sixth, just 22 seconds adrift.
“We thought we could lose some time but I’ve got a strong team,” Scarponi said afterwards. “We can be very satisfied.”
“We did what we could, it was very tough and technical, all bends and barely a metre of straight. We went hard, we were compact, a course like that makes it easy to make mistakes. But we can pleased, we did our best.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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