Bahrain-Merida riders wins race's first mountain stage

Italian Vincenzo Nibali won the first mountain stage of the Vuelta a España but says that there is still room for him to improve as the three-week race continues.

The leader of team Bahrain-Merida attacked with around 500 metres left after joining a group that included Chris Froome (Team Sky), the race’s new overall leader.

“I’ve been training now to get ready for this race because it’s important like the Giro d’Italia,” Nibali said.

“I recovered well and prepared to be ready for it. I showed that I also have something on the climb and still have space for improving and it was able to go ahead and get this beautiful win.”

Tour de France victor Chris Froome attacked near the top of the final climb after a vicious Team Sky effort and went clear with Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott). Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), third in the Tour, reacted behind while others suffered and could not follow. At the top the duo trailed Froome and Chaves by around six seconds with 7.1km to race to the finish in the Andorra principality.

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“The finish of the stage today was very difficult and I suffered a bit. I started the last climb a little bit behind under the pressure of Team Sky,” Nibali added. “At the top of the climb, I was about 8 or 10 seconds behind and I recovered the gap on the descent but there are important names Chaves, Aru, Bardet and some people paid a bit today but these are difficult days and it’s going to happen. And don’t forget Froome was there!

“The shark fin celebration was something different the and I’ve never done that. It’s something that is related to me so I thought why not have some fun and do it?”

‘The Shark’ from Messina in Sicily, winner of the Giro d’Italia twice as well as the 2010 Vuelta a España and 2014 Tour de France, attacked in the final metres and held on to win.

“The idea was to stay up front and see what happens and when I saw a slight slowing down at around 500 meters to go, I took my occasion for the stage win.”

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It was his first win since the Gavia/Bormio stage of the Giro d’Italia this May. He placed third overall in the race behind Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

He took an important 10 seconds for the stage win today, Froome took four for placing third and some bonus seconds on the road. Froome now leads the overall by two seconds over David De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors), Nicolas Roche and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing). Nibali is fifth overall at 10 seconds in a tight classification battle.

“They already say that tomorrow is a very dangerous day but I don’t know. Many times that the riders will say that if the stage doesn’t end with a mountain climb then nothing will happen but then on these rolling stages all you need is someone to have some difficulty and everything opens up and the GC race is on. And some people pay a little bit more than the others maybe because it was the first mountain day.”