Chris Froome may have dominated the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, winning the overall on Sunday in Madrid, but top rival Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) says Team Sky’s star can be conquered.
Froome led the race from stage three to stage 21, finishing with 2-15 minutes over second place Nibali. Nibali already won the Vuelta in 2010, the Tour de France and his home race, the Giro d’Italia twice.
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“There were days when he certainly wasn’t super, like that finish in Machucos,” Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
“If we had a stage with more climbing metres then things would’ve been different. There were many riders who had common interests for the classification.”
Mikel Nieve had to pace Froome up the steep 26 per cent Machucos slopes on stage 17 as Nibali gained 42 seconds that day.
“Was he invincible? I put much on the Angliru climb [stage 20], but after the crash, I wasn’t the same as before. I wasn’t able to breathe. At that point, I thought the best thing was to just to manage myself and my second place,” said Nibali.
“Up until that moment, I always raced thinking about the overall victory, but it didn’t come. Anyway, I don’t consider it a bad result. Something like 8/10. The placing holds value, also considering the rivals that I was up against.”
Nibali has beaten Froome in smaller stage races, but never in a Grand Tour. He lined up against him in the 2014 Tour, which he won, but Froome abandoned after a crash on stage five.
The second place adds to his third place overall in the 2017 Giro d’Italia behind winner Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Considering he could back off and pass the summer specifically preparing for the Vuelta, Froome considered Nibali his most dangerous rivals.
“I concentrated my training on the second part of the season for this race,” continued Nibali. “The results, the stage win in Andorra and the performance shows that I did well. Nothing came by chance.”