CALAR ALTO, Spain (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali is trying to shake up the Vuelta a España in these final two weeks, just as the Bahrain-Merida team promised he would.
With the cold wind whipping around the summit and its observatory at Calar Alto, Nibali waited for his anti-doping test and looked over the classification after stage 11. He jumped from fourth to second overall behind Chris Froome (Sky) at 1:19. Many of his rivals went the other direction on the race’s first high-mountain finish.
“Today was a very difficult day with the rain in the cold and the long stage with the long climbs,” Nibali said while cleaning the grit off his face. “Is different than all the other stages we’d faced beforehand.”
The peloton endured a rainstorm and cold 48-degree temperatures, and further, the Vuelta’s first long finishing climb went for 15.5 kilometers up to 2,120 meters.
Earlier in the race, Nibali admitted that the short and explosive efforts did not suit him. This one did, and so he put his Bahrain-Merida team to work. And when they finished, he followed Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) with attacks, trying to break Froome.
“All the team did the great work. Giovanni Visconti did well to put himself up in the early escape and even my brother Antonio was there with me on the first climb,” Nibali said. “Once, we picked up Visconti he was pulling. And then Franco [Pellizotti]. I was there in the last three kilometers and I tried it to stretch it out. There was a lot of wind and it wasn’t easy.”
The climbing and lashing cold wind saw BMC’s Nicolas Roche and Tejay van Garderen suffer. Fabio Aru (Astana) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) lost time, too.
“I saw there was little bit of tiredness in the group and I said to Franco to go harder,” Nibali added. “The first time it was Alberto to go and I followed him, and I thought that we could do something.”
Froome appeared on the ropes, but he chased with the help of teammate Mikel Nieve. Nibali, who won this race in 2010, failed to break Froome, but saw others fade and his position strengthen. It was the second day in a row that Bahrain-Merida had taken control of the race.
“We are becoming better and better but it’s too early to judge,” explained sports director Gorazd Stangelj. “Chris Froome has a strong team and he is strong so it’s very difficult to gain time against him.
“We expected more teams to help out but they didn’t have a good day. For sure the weather conditions didn’t help and that’s probably why Chaves and other riders lost time. We had a good day today but as I said, Chris had good legs and a strong team.”