Nibali loses ground to leader

The Washington Post Sunday - - BASEBALL - BY JEROME PUGMIRE

mur de bre­tagne, france — Vin­cenzo Nibali is mak­ing a patchy start to the de­fense of his Tour de France ti­tle, and if Satur­day’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 its first vic­tory in this year’s race, it was the way Nibali was dropped on a dis­tance of just two kilo­me­ters (1.2 miles) that had peo­ple talk­ing.

“I don’t un­der­stand what hap­pened. Hope­fully this was just a bad day. Oth­er­wise this Tour will be dif­fi­cult,” As­tana Man­ager Giuseppe Martinelli said. “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 run­ner-up Nairo Quin­tana and Amer­i­can Te­jay Van Garderen also helped them­selves to 10 sec­onds on Nibali.

Inthe over­all clas­si­fi­ca­tion, this means that Froome still leads Van Garderen by 13 sec­onds, Con­ta­dor by 36 and Quin­tana by 1:56.

“I guess we’re go­ing to have to see how Vin­cenzo goes up on the long climbs. It hasn’t been a great start for him, but things can soon change,” Froome said.

Be­fore those climbs, start­ing Tues­day 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 threat.

Times in a team time trial are taken from the fifth rider cross­ing the line. The un­du­lat­ing 28-kilo­me­ter (17.4-mile) route fin­ishes with a 1.7 kilo­me­ter (1.1 mile) as­cent.

BMC has four riders from the team that won the event at last year’s world cham­pi­onships: Van Garderen, Rohan Dennis, Daniel Oss and Manuel Quinzi­ato.

“With the team I have and what they have shown so far, we are pretty con­fi­dent,” Van Garderen said.

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