Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) took another step today towards winning his home tour, the Giro d’Italia. On the wet and foggy slopes above Bardonecchia, heading to Jafferau at 1908 metres, he left his rivals behind with eventual stage winner Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia).
“Am I the new patron? I don’t know about that, it’s a long Giro d’Italia, but that was a good test,” Nibali said on TV. “Santambrogio won, but I was able to gain a good gap to my direct rivals.”
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) lost 33 seconds. He remains second overall, but moved from 41 seconds to 1-26 minutes back.
Rigoberto Urán, Sky’s new leader after Brad Wiggins abandoned, gained three seconds on Evans but lost time on Nibali. Still in third place, he dropped from 2-04 back to 2-46 minutes time back.
Nibali fired clear with Italian Santambrogio at 1800 metres from the line. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) followed for around one kilometre.
In Jafferau at 1-2°C with light snow, Nibali explained in some of the race’s first live images.
“We let the escape go early on, but only get 12-13 minutes. The group maintained a big rhythm just to keep warm,” Nibali said.
“In the last 20 kilometres, Sky maintained a hard rhythm for Urán. Urán tried, but it wasn’t an attack to make the difference. The others didn’t have the legs, at least more than what I had. Martino [Astana team manager, Giuseppe Martinelli - ed.] told me that from two to one kilometre was the hardest, so I tried at that point.”
The 14th stage, the second summit finish after Urán won in Montasio, was cut short due to snow. At 11:20 this morning, just 1 hour and 20 minutes before the start, organiser RCS Sport confirmed the riders would not pass Sestriere, but would take the Susa Valley to arrive to Bardonecchia.
From Italy’s western-most town, Nibali took off his long-sleeve jersey and raced in a short-sleeve maglia rosa.
“It rained from the start to end, then at the start of the Jafferau it was so cold, but at least it stopped raining,” Nibali added. “What’s good is that I was going well.”
He heard the overall standings through his earpiece and forgot about the cold.
“These time gaps,” he said, “are important.”
The last and only other time the Giro d’Italia visited Jafferau, Eddy Merckx chased down José Manuel Fuente to win the stage and help secure his eventual overall win.
Nibali may have achieved the same result today. At 1-26 minutes, Evans will have a hard time catching his rival.