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Nibali "not worried" by imminent worsening in weather in Vuelta a España

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Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) retained the race lead

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) retained the race lead (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Vincenzo Nibali still wearing dark glasses to cover his swollen wasp-stung eyes

Vincenzo Nibali still wearing dark glasses to cover his swollen wasp-stung eyes (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) survived another day in the race lead

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) survived another day in the race lead (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

After nearly two weeks of sunshine, heavy rain and attacks by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) are forecast for the Pyrenees as the Vuelta a España tackles three days in the mountains.

The race starts with an assault on the lung-burstingly steep Collada de la Gallina climb in Andorra, on the south side of Purito's country of adoption, a climb where Rodriguez finished second in the 2012 Vuelta and an ascent he tackles regularly in training. "We know it almost too well," says Dani Moreno, his Katusha teammate who also lives in the Pyrenean mini-state, with a smile.

However, race leader Vincenzo Nibali refuses to be worried by the prospect of precipitation or Rodriguez - already bouncing off the front on the Rat Penat climb today - going on the rampage in the Pyrenees.

"I'm sure he will do something," Nibali said, being able to face television interviewers without dark glasses for the first time since his close encounter with a wasp on Tuesday. Friday's stage showed Rodriguez form may be coming good just in time for the mountains.

"His condition is very good, you could tell today. But he's not the only rider I need to watch."

"It was a tough stage [on Friday], hard and very fast in the last part and with some nasty crashes early on."

Nibali sounded less confident when asked about the Collado climb, which he said he only knew "a little." It was first tackled in last year's Vuelta, so will be new to the Italian.

However, he was positively bullish when asked if the rain could be a problem - and given the way he performed in wet weather earlier this season - that was understandable.

"I'm sure it'll be okay for me, I did all right when it rained in Tirreno and the Giro," Nibali said, "It's not really a problem."

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, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.