Vincenzo Nibali's Giro d'Italia appeared to derail along with his chain in the 15th stage of the three-week race today. Team Astana's Italian star said that he just has to accept the results as they are after the mountain time trial up the Alpe di Siusi.
He lost 30 seconds over the first half to race leader Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and even more, 1-40, in the second half when he derailed his chain from the outer chainring. Under the sun-soaked Dolomites, he slipped 2-10 behind and dropped to third overall, 2-51 behind Kruijswijk.
Nibali normally speaks immediately after a stage finish on the road. This time, he went to his anti-doping control first and rode to the Astana car afterwards. After some prodding, the normally talkative Sicilian began to open up.
"It went how it went, it's OK," Nibali said. "I can't say much, I don't know. It's fine.
"I don't know [what this means for the Giro overall]. Today, I paid, yesterday, it was Alejandro Valverde. Maybe the day after the rest day, Kruijswijk could pay. Now, I don't know.
“You have to accept the results when they are like this. It's normal to be a bit nervous at the finish, after the race. It's not that one has the desire or the words to explain. It's normal, you have to accept these results."
The results shake cycling's hierarchy as no one expected before the Giro d'Italia began two weeks ago in Apeldoorn. Nibali, winner of all three Grand Tours, began as the top favourite ahead of Mikel Landa (Sky) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Valverde lost time yesterday and Landa packed his bags on Tuesday to head home to Spain with stomach problems. Nibali appeared even more the favourite with fresh faced cyclists like Dutchman Kruijswijk and Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), at 2-51 in third place, for competition.
Nibali, however, lost 43 seconds yesterday in Corvara and another 2-10 today. The Dolomites damaged his changes to win a second Giro title after his 2013 win.
"There's a good gap, but it's fine how it is."
Watch: Giro d'Italia mountain time trial bikes
Italians refer to Nibali as 'The Shark' and the fans alongside the Dolomite road appeared desperate to see him attack. At times, some appeared dangerously close.
"I'm happy with that because I was also a big fan, so it's always a pleasure to see them," Nibali added. "They always want to see a win, they hope, but we are only humans, so there are moments when it all doesn't go very well. We are people, we suffer, that's it."
The team manager, Giuseppe Martinelli drove Nibali to the team's hotel for tonight and the rest day tomorrow. Perhaps a bad sign for Italy's champion, Astana is staying in Hotel Hell. The team said that the owner gave his hotel his surname.
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