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Basque climber saves what appeared to be yet another disaster-ridden Giro d'Italia for Team SKY.







30.05.2016 @ 12:52 Posted by Jesper Ralbjerg

When illness forced Mikel Landa to climb off his bike at the beginning of the second week in the Giro, one couldn’t help wondering if Team SKY felt a grim sense of déjà vu. While the British team has secured three of the last four Tours de France, they have met with considerably less success in the Italian grand tour. Enter last-minute addition Mikel Nieve who saved the team’s Italian campaign with a stage win and victory in the mountains classification.


Nieve acknowledges that he suffered to begin with after joining the team at a very short notice when Sergio Henao was temporarily suspended due to the UCI’s investigation of his biological passport, but Nieve discovered his form once the race entered mountainous terrain. “It is indescribable. I will savour it and enjoy it. I take pride in my Giro d’Italia,” he told Spanish sports daily AS.


“I achieved more than I could have imagined; my second stage victory in the Giro and the mountains classification. For a climber like me it means that you’ve achieved a great level, it has given me a lot of hope. I started a little short of form and, in the first week, I took things calmly, and I put myself out front in the last two weeks when Sky needed me to.”


Blessing in disguise

On the stage when Landa abandoned, Nieve and fellow Spaniard David Lopez hung back to try to tow but to no avail. When Landa had taken a seat in the team car, Nieve and Lopez then had the long and unenviable journey to the finish of the stage, where they would eventually cross the line in a small group more than 37 minutes down on the winner. However, that time loss may in fact have been a blessing in disguise for Nieve during the following stages as he took his own chances.


Three days after his leader’s forfeit, Nieve managed to get into a break and stormed to a solo victory in the Dolomites on stage 13. The result also elevated him up to fourth in the mountains classification, and he would continue to elbow his way towards the top of that classification with two strong performances in the final mountain stages of the race.


“I serve the interests of the team and in this case, I was here to work for Mikel. Unfortunately, he retired sick, and I took my opportunities,” said Nieve. “For sure, I love the Dolomites. Here, I took my victory in 2011 on a tough day in a beautiful area, although we didn’t have time to enjoy the postcard landscapes. Afterwards, the jersey came closer with my escape on the first day in the Alps, passing over the Agnello with the leaders and then finishing second in Risoul. In the morning of the second Alpine stage, I set myself the challenge of taking the jersey.”


In the end his lead and his jersey were never in jeopardy as some of his main rivals floundered on the demanding stages in the Alpes while Nieve did more than enough to amass points and clinch his KOM jersey.



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