Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), two-time Giro d’Italia winner, says that it is race leader Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) needs pay attention or he will lose not only the lead but a podium spot when the race ends in Milan on Sunday.
The Italian three-week tour on stage 18 reached a boiling point in the Dolomites.
It appeared rivals Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Nibali, second and third overall, ganged up on Dumoulin on the Gardena Pass with over 50 kilometres to race.
Later, he repaid the favour and refused to lend a hand when Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), fourth overall, rode clear and gained time.
“I wanted to say, ‘Hey, I’ve won two Giros, how many have you won? It’s you that has to win,” Nibali said.
“I don’t care, a second or third place isn’t going to change things for me. In fact, he needs to pay attention if we let the others go because he’ll lose the podium too.”
The Sicilian known as ‘The Shark’ won the Giro in 2013 and last year, the Tour de France in 2014 and the Vuelta a España in 2010. Dumoulin has won stages, but never a Grand Tour title or a podium spot.
“He doesn’t care if he doesn’t get fourth or third. I understand that.” Dutchman Tom Dumoulin said this morning outside the Sunweb bus in San Candido. “He will do anything in the coming two days to win the Giro.
Dumoulin, hot after the stage through the Dolomites, said, “I hope that Nibali and Quintana will lose their podium spots because of only focusing on me.”
On Friday morning ahead of the 19th stage, he toned it down. Sitting with the pink jersey on, he explained, “I said some words at the finish with a lot of emotion and it wasn’t maybe the smartest or nicest thing to say. If I see them at the start I’ll have a talk with them.”
The tension and war of words created drama and tightened the classification, with second through fifth only 90 seconds apart.
Dumoulin leads Quintana by 31 seconds and Nibali by 1-12 minutes. Now, though, Pinot is at 1-36 and Zakarin at 1-58.
“I understand that Nibali and Quintana attacked me [on the Passo Gardena] but I still don’t understand why they stayed on my wheel in the last five kilometres because I think that’s not in their advantage as well,” Dumoulin said.
“I think that’s why I was pissed. I still respect Nibali and Quintana like I always did, I’ve always been friendly to them but yesterday was a moment that I was maybe too emotional.”
Dumoulin mounted his black Giant bike and rode towards the start line in Italian town San Candido, near the Austrian border, to find his rivals and start the 19th stage.
Stage 19 and 20 end uphill, the final day in Milan ends with a time trial that suits Dumoulin.