Nibali’s Tour defence no smooth ride this early on
VINCENZO Nibali is making a patchy start to his Tour de France title defence, and if yesterday’s eighth stage is anything to go by it may not get much better in the mountains.
Nibali lost another 10 seconds to race leader Chris Froome, the 2013 champion, on the short and sharp final climb up Mur de Bretagne, setting off alarm bells in the Italian’s Astana team.
While the stage was won by Alexis Vuillermoz to give France a first victory in this year’s race, it was the way Nibali was dropped on a distance of 2km that had people talking.
“I don’t understand what happened,’’ Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli said.
‘‘ Hopefully this was just a bad day, otherwise this Tour will be difficult.
“Our team should deliver a perfect performance in tomorrow’s team time trial, we can’t make more mistakes.”
Nibali already trails Froome by 1 minute, 48 seconds and riders have yet to tackle the high mountains.
Two- time champion Alberto Contador, former run- ner- up Nairo Quintana, and American rider Tejay Van Garderen also helped themselves to 10 seconds on Nibali.
In the overall classification, this means that Froome still leads Van Garderen by 13 seconds, Contador by 36 and Quintana by 1: 56.
Before the climbs, starting on Wednesday with the first of three consecutive days in the Pyrenees, the weary riders must tackle the team time trial – where Froome’s yellow jersey will be under serious threat from Van Garderen, who is shaping up as a dangerous outsider.
Times in a team time trial are taken from the fifth rider crossing the line.
The undulating 28km route finishes with a 1.7km ascent.