Nibali settles into role of Vuelta a Espana leader

After four days of racing on Galician Galicia in the Vuelta a Espana, and a tough fifth stage out of the remote northwesterly region of Spain that was only decided by a bunch sprint at almost the last possible moment, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) looks to be settling into his role of leader.

There has been much debate over whether the ‘Shark of Messina’ had bitten off more than he could chew by taking the lead so early on in the race. But if yesterday’s very difficult terrain and post-stage kerfuffle over whether he had the lead or not did not make matters easier for Nibali, today’s more straightforward racing and finale - albeit with its fair share of climbing - seemed much more to his liking.

“It’s good to be in the lead, and we’ve defended it without any problems, using up only a little energy,” Nibali told Spanish radio after the stage.

“We kept things under control at the start, then Garmin and Orica came in to work on the front and they did a really good job working for the sprint. It was pretty calm early on then very fast at the end.”

“Let’s just hope that tomorrow’s pretty much the same, although it’s an easier stage, anyway. It’s been a very nervous start to the race, but there’s still a long way to go.”

“I thought the break would make it to the finish,” added Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), one of his most dangerous rivals. “It was a very hard stage, and I’m just glad to get out of Galicia in one piece and in good shape.”

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, 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. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.