Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has been like a silent sphinx so far in the Giro d'Italia, riding quietly in the peloton, trying to avoid the crashes and limiting his losses in the hope of arriving in the decisive mountain stages within reach of the maglia rosa.
However today's rolling 41.9km through the vineyards of Barbaresco and Barolo will show if he can go on to challenge Cadel Evans (BMC) in the mountain stages of the Giro d'Italia.
Evans is widely expected to gain time on all his rivals and so strengthen his grip on the pink jersey but the hills and descents of the time trial course, the risk of rain and the effects of the first half of the Giro d'Italia make it almost impossible to predict how much Evans can gain and how much Quintana will lose.
Quintana has been protected by his Movistar teammates but he will be competing alone, against the clock, when he rolls down the start ramp at 15:59. He is currently eighth overall, 1:45 down on Evans, 48 second down on Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and 25 seconds down on Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale).
Being a light-weight pure climber, Quintana is expected to loose at least a minute to Evans but hopes to limit his losses thanks to the climbs. He spent the morning studying the course by car and then on his bike.
"I like the course. I've seen it and I think it actually favours me a little," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"It's a strange time trial. You can't say its flat but there's isn’t a lot of climbing. It suits Evans and Rigo (Uran) and Pozzovivo. Perhaps Evans has a slight advantage. Uran perhaps will have a slight edge on me because I've seen that he's riding really well."
Quintana has been riding defensively since being involved in the big pile on the stage to Montecassino, where he hurt his glutei muscle. He revealed that the high pollen count of the Italian spring has also been causing him some problems.
"The problem in my glutei muscle is almost gone, it doesn’t hurt me anymore. Now my problem is that I've got a bit of catarrh, a sore throat and headache. My nose is blocked too," he admitted, clearly not worried that it might boost the morale of his rivals.
"We'll see how the time trial goes. Of course it will be an important test to see the hopes of the rider targeting the overall classification."
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