No love lost with Quin­tana, says Nibali

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MESSINA: Days af­ter a de­nial, de­fend­ing Giro d’Italia cham­pion Vin­cenzo Nibali con­ceded re­la­tions with pink jer­sey favourite Nairo Quin­tana are frosty.

“It’s true, we don’t like each other,” Bahrain team leader Nibali said on Wed­nes­day af­ter a fifth stage into his home town of Messina that saw Colom­bian sprinter Fer­nando Gaviria (Quick Step) claim his sec­ond win on the race.

A two-time cham­pion who is hop­ing to claim his third ‘maglia rosa’ when the race ends in Mi­lan on May 28, Nibali isn’t con­sid­ered the race favourite on what is its 100th edi­tion.

Thanks to a climb-heavy fi­nal week, Mo­vis­tar team leader Quin­tana has been given that hon­our.

A two-time run­ner-up at the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015, the diminu­tive Colom­bian, who used to ride through the eastern ranges of the An­des moun­tains just to get to school, is the reign­ing Vuelta a Es­pana cham­pion.

Ahead of yes­ter­day’s sixth stage, a 217km race from Reg­gio Cal­abria to Terme Luigiane that was de­signed for a sprint fin­ish, both Nibali and Quin­tana sat 10 sec­ondss be­hind Lux­em­bourg’s over­all race leader, Bob Jun­gels of Quick Step.

Hav­ing claimed the pink jer­sey on the sum­mit of Mount Etna on Tues­day, the 24-year-old hoped to keep the ‘maglia rosa’ un­til at least the next sum­mit fin­ish, at Block­haus, on Sun­day’s ninth stage.

“I will try to keep the maglia rosa at least un­til Sun­day. It’ll be an im­por­tant day for the climbers at the Block­haus,” said Jun­gels.

Al­though the over­all con­tenders are keen to keep as much pow­der dry as pos­si­ble for a po­ten­tially ex­plo­sive third week in the high moun­tains, Nibali has been keen to get the race started.

A brief at­tack on the slopes of Mount Etna on Tues­day, how­ever, brought no re­sponse from Quin­tana, who in­stead sent Costa Ri­can team­mate Adrey Amador on the counter to check the 32-year-old Ital­ian.

“I at­tacked just to see who would try to re­spond, but no-one had the courage to make a real counter-at­tack,” added Nibali.

“We were all just con­trol­ling each other. I think on Block­haus, we’ll see a bit more ac­tion. It’s a much harder climb (than Etna).” AFP

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