Mikel Nieve showed he'll be a force to be reckoned with in this Giro d'Italia with a strong showing on yesterday's first hilltop finish at Rocca di Cambio. The native of Leitza, Navarra, bested the likes of Gadret, Cunego, Kreuziger, Urán and Rujano on his way to ninth on the stage, but is still way off the pace in the general classification fight after losing considerable time compared to his rivals in the prologue and in the team time trial. Those time losses doesn't weigh on his mind though, saying he was pleased with the first week of racing.
"All in all, the first week went well", the 27-year-old to Cyclism'Actu. "Obviously it's better not to cede any time, or at least to cede as little as possible. But it doesn't worry me - I'm not a candidate for the overall win in Milano! I won't go on the offensive because I lost those minutes. If a chance to surprise comes up, I'll take it, but I won't do that because of the lost time. I want to do my own race, the best possible, by taking the stages as they come and not worry about the time lost."
Nieve is currently positioned in 59th overall, 3:18 down on Ryder Hesjedal. More importantly he's 3:01 down on Joaquím Rodríguez, 2:43 on Kreuziger, 2:38 on Basso and 2:24 behind odds-on favourite Michele Scarponi. A top ten doesn't appear to be out of reach though, what with the numerous mountains coming up in the last two weeks, and that's exactly what the featherweight climber came here for.
"I'll fight for a stage and a top ten. That would be a nice return. I don't say to myself that I have to win one, two or three stages, or that I have to be in the top ten. The most important thing is that I reach Milano satisfied with my performance. We haven't put a real strategy in place within the team; we'll just try to win a stage and finish as high up as possible on GC. But I won't win the Giro - that's out of my reach".
And who among the favourites does he think look the strongest?
"Frankly, everyone looks good. All pre-race favourites have prepared well. Scarponi, Basso, Kreuziger, Rujano, Schleck, among others, look strong. Those riders will for sure fight for the overall prize".