Nibali: I’ve never seen Valverde so strong

Vincenzo Nibali has endured a frustrating couple of days in the Alps in the Tour de France; he’s full of attacking intent but finds himself a marked man, despite being over eight minutes down on general classification.

The Sicilan attacked on the Col d’Allos on stage 17 and tried to wriggle free on the Col du Glandon and on the Lacets de Montvernier the following day, but he has not been able to shake the trio of Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, and Alejandro Valverde. He sees the Movistar duo, who seem to be protecting their two-three on GC, as the keenest to shut him down him down and even claims he has never seen Valverde so strong.

“I could see that they weren’t letting me go. I had hoped to link up with Contador when he attacked but I hesitated for a few seconds and stayed in the group. After that I was on the leash for the whole race,” said Nibali, according to Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo.

“I saw that everyone was marking me, above all the Movistar guys. I had never seen Alejandro Valverde in such form, he is stronger than ever.”

It is unclear whether there’s more than meets the eye to that comment on Valverde, who was banned for his implication in the 2006 Operación Puerto case. What is clear is that Nibali, who seems to be getting stronger after a dreadful opening 10 stages, will continue in this attacking vein.

He sits seventh on GC with two gruelling days in the Alps to come, featuring summit finishes at La Toussuire and Alpe d’Huez. While he has renounced any realistic ambition of defending his Tour title, he insists anything could happen and whether it’s a stage win or moving up on GC, he’s ready to roll the dice.

“Now my Tour is a gamble, a challenge. I don’t know what could happen. Winning a stage remains difficult because the breaks go but with such a hard couple of summit finishes anything could happen and I hope to be up there to take any opportunity.”

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