Chris Froome believes he paid the price for a stunning effort in Tuesday's time trial after seeing his lead cut at the Vuelta a Espana, but Vincenzo Nibali insists his rival is showing no weaknesses.
Team Sky rider Froome almost doubled his lead in the general classification with a dominant performance on stage 16.
A day later, though, Nibali had reduced that advantag to one minute and 16 seconds as Froome struggled to contend with the Italian's attack on the gruelling final climb of stage 17 - a 180.5 kilometre ride from Villadiego to Los Machucos. Monumento Vaca Pasiega.
"I'm sure I paid a little bit for [Tuesday's] effort, that's clear," Froome told reporters. "We always knew that today's final was pretty tough.
"But I'm still in a fantastic position, I'm confident and I've got a good buffer of time. The team's looking great, and hopefully I'll bounce back after a hard day today.
"The way I see this part of the Vuelta is as a four-day block, five if you count [Tuesday] and knowing that stage 20 will be the hardest day of the four.
"Any effort today or yesterday is all going to compound in the grand finale of the Angliru.
"I'm optimistic, feeling good about what lies ahead, and the guys in the team are doing really well. I'm confident we can get the job done."
Despite seeing his chances of an unlikely comeback win greatly improved, Nibali says that Froome remains the favourite.
"Absolutely not [Froome did not show weakness]," Nibali said.
"Up until the last climb, he had seven men. It's the same solid Team Sky."