Nibali loses ground to leader
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.