The Giro d'Italia heads into the high mountains of the French Alps with finishes at Bardonecchia on Saturday and then at the Galibier on Sunday, yet even the climbs and the risk of snow do not seem to perturb race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Indeed, the retirements of Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) have improved the Italian's chances of victory and simplified any race strategy he may need to ensure he holds the pink jersey all the way to Brescia. He rightly denied the Giro d'Italia has become easier to win.
"The Giro isn't easy, ever," he pointed out.
"Without Wiggins there's one rival less; Hesjedal has gone too. Now we've only got Uran, Evans and Scarponi to control."
Nibali leads Evans by 41 seconds, with Uran third at 2:04, Robert Gesink (Blanco) fourth at 2:12 and Scarponi fifth at 2:13. Those are narrow margins for such a mountainous Grand Tour and Nibali conceded that he needs to gain more time to be confident of overall victory.
"It's difficult to make predictions about what will happen in the two mountain stages," he said.
"We'll see with the directeur sportif and then in the race. It depends if I feel good or bad, it depends on weather too. The forecast is not good. We're fortunate it didn't rain today. We were lucky."
"I hope it's not too cold during the mountain stages, that's very important for me and all the peloton; it's not nice riding in the snow. Evans is close overall and so I have to do something but I've also got to be careful they don't try something. I'm feeling good and I've got to try something in the next few mountains."
Nibali has yet to win a stage in this year's Giro d'Italia. He would like a day of glory but not at the expense of risking his pink jersey.
"Winning a stage is not easy. If there's a chance, why not? I'll try but there's a huge difference between saying it and actually doing it. I'm going to stay focused on the pink jersey first of all and then see what happens. I'm feeling good and so I'm feeling confident."
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