Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is hoping for rain on the Alto de l’Angliru as he bids to re-take the red jersey from Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) on the penultimate stage of the Vuelta a España on Saturday.
The Sicilian lost a handful of seconds – and the overall lead – to Horner on Friday’s summit finish atop the Alto del Naranco. Horner had been chipping away at Nibali’s overall lead throughout the final week, and the momentum looks to be with the 41-year-old American as the Vuelta reaches its definitive showdown.
Nibali remains optimistic about his chances, however. He rejected the idea that he would be unable to better Horner on the steep slopes on the Angliru and thus have to attack from distance, pointing out that it would be difficult to make a telling difference on the descent of the preceding Cordal.
“It’s difficult to invent something beforehand, I think you have to wait for the last climb,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “The descent is technical but if it’s dry, nothing will happen.”
Nibali has good reason to hope that the heavens open over Asturias on Saturday, as he believes that the combination of slippery roads and 23% gradients on the Angliru would force Horner to change his climbing style.
“If it rains, I want to see if Horner is able to tackle the climb out of the saddle like he always does. It would be impossible. On wet roads, everything would change,” Nibali said.
Although leaden skies are forecast in the afternoon, the rain is expected to hold off until after the stage finish. But even if the weather does not turn out to be an ally, Nibali was still bullish about the possibility of overhauling Horner and he even drew positives from losing the red jersey on Friday.
“In the end, I’m tranquillo. I’m looking at the glass as half full and I think that’s better,” Nibali said.
“Count up my days as leader and multiply that by the two hours necessary for the podium ceremony, press conference and doping control – the result will tell you that I’ve had two nights fewer of rest than my rivals. This time instead I went for a shower straightaway and then had a sleep on the bus, so I will be better rested at the start.”