Vincenzo Nibali and Primož Roglič survived a difficult day on the Anterselva climb to close stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia.
The second and third place riders overall lost seven seconds to leader Richard Carapaz and saw his Movistar team-mate Mikel Landa edge closer in fourth place behind.
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“I was expecting it, but today I wasn’t really on a good day,” Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) said of Carapaz’s attack in the closing kilometres.
“But that’s okay. We got through the stage quite well today and that’s it.”
Nibali was unusually short with the journalists waiting in the ski village in Italy’s northeast German speaking region. After answering one question, he rode directly to his hotel.
Landa had attacked further down on the 5.5 kilometre climb. Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale) won the stage from an escape. Landa rode free to gain 19 seconds and after looking at his rivals, pink jersey Carapaz attacked to add more time to his lead.
“Recovered, ah?” Roglic said when asked if he was suffering from his crash. He fell on a descent on stage 15 to Como and slammed his chest into a guard-rail.
“I still have a pain here especially around my chest, but like with the stomach is getting better. I can be optimistic about that.
“Like everything, it affects you a little but for sure it doesn’t help. It’s not easy for anyone, it’s a big fight for everyone.”
The GC battle continues in three more stages. After tomorrow’s stage 18, an expected sprint stage, they face two mountain stages – San Martino di Castrozza and Monte Avena – before the closing 17km time trial to Verona’s Arena.
“There’s still a long way to go, of course the days are going past,” Roglic added. “For me it’s just the most important that I’m staying healthy in one piece and fight until end.”