Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) took his third consecutive top three placing on the steep finish to Hatta Dam at the Dubai Tour but refused to be disappointed at not raising his arms in victory, knowing he still has an excellent shot at overall victory when the race ends with a sprint stage on Saturday.
Nizzolo was unable to hold onto Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar), who won the stage by two seconds, but he secured the second spot to take a precious six-second time bonus. Overnight leader Elia Viviani (Sky) was dropped, but second-placed Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) made a massive effort to finish sixth, just two seconds further back. However, the blue jersey went to Nizzolo who now leads Lobato by two seconds, with Kittel looming dangerously at six seconds.
Nizzolo has seemingly surpassed Peter Sagan in the best runner-up category, having been frustrated last year by his seventh successive second place in the Giro d'Italia. He began this season with two third places at the Tour Down Under, but he quickly dismissed any signs of frustration.
“It’s another placing for me, but I’m satisfied because I’m in the leader’s jersey, and we’ve got a good chance of winning the overall. My consistency is a sign that I’ve worked hard this winter," Nizzolo said, proud of his performance on the 17% gradient up to the finish.
“I don’t want to get too obsessed about winning a race; I’ve just got to keep doing my best and see what happens. This time, I was second and people have quickly pointed that out, but on this kind of tough finish, I could easily have finished outside the top five or even top ten. I’m happy and take whatever comes my way.”
Carte Blanche alongside Cancellara
Nizzolo explained that his consistency and overall chance of victory earned him protected status for the finish to Hatta Dam, on equal footing to Fabian Cancellara at Trek-Segafredo.
“This is a finish that suited Fabian but I’d taken time bonuses in the last two days, and so I had carte blanche to ride my own race,” he said. “We rode well together as a team to ensure we were both up there. We tried to do our best and second and fourth is a pretty good result.
“Lobato isn’t a surprise winner for me. I wasn’t here last year, but I’d seen the video and noted that he moved back up on the climb and finished strong. I expected him to be up there. Just before the climb kicked up, I was waiting for Gilbert and Cancellara to blow the race apart, but when Lobato went so strongly, I knew I had to go too. He was super strong, and I could only limit the damage. It’s a tough climb, but it’s a short effort, that suits fast finishers like me who can produce the power though I wisely used the 39 chainring with a pretty small cog down the back.”
Confident about overall victory
Nizzolo pulled on the blue race leader’s jersey and the red points jersey, and he is confident he can leave Dubai and head home to Italy with the Circle of Stars winner’s trophy. He just has one stage to hold off Kittel from surpassing him through time bonuses.
“They say the best defence is to attack, but it’s complicated because there are also the time bonuses at the intermediate sprints. The important thing is to have the lead rather than be chasing time. We’ll see what happens, but we have to be confident.”
Nizzolo is Trek-Segafredo’s go-to sprinter and is also part of the team’s Classics squad. He won the points jersey in the 2015 Giro d’Italia, despite failing to win a stage, and has also finished second in the 2013 GP Plouay and the 2014 Vattenfall Cyclassics in Hamburg.
He will again target the more selective sprints, some of the Classics and the Giro d’Italia in 2016.
“I’ve done a lot of racing with the Tour Down Under and the Dubai Tour, and so I’ll be able to enjoy a week at home. Then I’ll probably go to a team training camp before the first races in Belgium – Omloop and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. I’ll probably do Tirreno-Adriatico to prepare for Milan-San Remo and then do some of the Belgian Classics such as Gent-Wevelgem. I’ve also got to think of the Giro d’Italia, which is an important goal for me.
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