Vincenzo Nibali declared himself unconcerned after losing over 16 minutes on the summit finish at Alto del Amago on stage 4 of the Tour de San Luis, but the Astana man is aiming for a significantly stronger showing in Friday’s individual time trial.
The 9.4 kilometre climb of Alto del Amago was the first major test of the Tour de San Luis, and saw Nairo Quintana (Movistar) solo to an impressive victory and move to within four seconds of Phil Gaimon’s overall lead. Nibali, however, opted to sit up once the climb began to bite, citing both the extreme heat and his unwillingness to push himself too far this early in the season.
Indeed, only four riders finished within two minutes of the dominant Quintana, and Nibali was by no means the only rider to ease up in the finale – Michele Scarponi lost 5:54, Jurgen Van Den Broeck lost 7:26 and Joaquim Rodriguez came in almost 20 minutes down.
“I sat up as soon as the climb began and I took it really easy. I’m not in the best condition for the mountains right now and to go into the red at this point is only counter-productive,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I worked to bring [teammate Mikel] Landa to the foot of the climb and then at the first corner I sat up and went up at my own pace.”
Nibali’s primary goal for 2014 is the Tour de France, and he is aware of the bearing that the penultimate day time trial to Périguex will have on the final reckoning in July. To that end, stage 5 of the Tour de San Luis, a 19.2km time trial, is a useful early-season test site.
“It will be a real and very important test. It’ll be good for me, too, as a reference to years gone by,” said Nibali.
A medallist in both the junior and under-23 time trial world championships, Nibali has not always succeeded in reproducing that form in the discipline since joining the professional ranks. He made huge strides against the watch during his first season at Astana, however, as demonstrated by his resounding victory in the hilly Polsa time trial at last year’s Giro d’Italia.
With Taylor Phinney (BMC) among his rivals in Argentina, Nibali acknowledged that claiming an early stage victory would be difficult. “It won’t be easy, but I recover well and I’m really keen to do well in this test,” he said.