Italian Vincenzo Nibali had no doubts whatsoever that sealing victory in his first ever major tour on stage 20 of the Vuelta a Espana meant that Saturday was far and away “the happiest day I’ve had on a bike so far.”
Nibali’s victory will be the first for Italy since Marco Giovanetti won the Vuelta in 2009, and is Liquigas’s second Grand Tour win in 2010 after Ivan Basso took the Giro d’Italia in May.
“Basso actually gave me a lot of advice in the last part of the race,” the 25-year-old Sicilian admitted. “It was very useful to have him there, telling me to stay calm and to keep going at my own pace in the mountains.”
Nibali certainly followed Basso’s advice to the letter on Saturday’s key mountain stage, letting Mosquera go up the road then clawing back to reach his main challenger underneath the finishing gantry.
“There were loads of difficult moments, but that’s made victory more special,” Nibali said,
“Today’s climb was easily as hard as the Plan de Corones in Italy, and I suffered.”
“But I followed the same tactics as I did with Mosquera in Covadonga, and that paid off perfectly.”
Nibali said that the toughest stage for him was when he lost 39 seconds to Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on the climb to Cotobello, but that his biggest problem was a lack of previous knowledge of the Vuelta.
“I knew none of the climbs, none of the roads, nothing,” Nibali said, “and the longer the race went on, the more enemies I had.”
“Still, I had some great support from my team and it all went well.”
Asked if he could envisage taking on Contador in next year’s Tour, Nibali said that would be jumping the gun a little.
“But I’m progressing. Seventh in the Tour last year, third in the Giro this year and now a win in Spain. In a couple of years time, maybe I’ll be ready to try and take on Alberto.”
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index