SAN DIEGO, July 18, 2014 – Vicenzo Nibali kept his lead Friday at the 2014 Tour de France with a strong ride on the second of three Alpine mountain stages. Despite tests from his closest rivals, Nibali stayed strong and made it clear he intends to win this year’s Tour de France.
It’s easy to say that Nibali has it easy with the two favorites Chris Froome and Alberto Contador out of the race. Nibali had the lead when both Froome and Contador left the Tour due to injuries, and it might have been tough for either of them to catch Nibali given how strong his performance was on Friday’s stage.
As the GC contenders made their way up the long climb to the finish, all but the toughest competitors started falling away from the small lead group. Australian Richie Porte of Team Sky was the first to cry uncle, sitting up and letting his second place slip away. Porte along with several other riders received medical attention for stomach ailments, with Spain’s Daniel Navarro, leader of Cofidis, forced to withdraw as a result.
Nibali withstood strategic attacks by rivals Alejandro Valverde of Movistar, Thibaut Pinot of FDJ, Romain Bardet of AG2R, and American Tejay Van Garderen of BMC. With four miles to go to the summit finish, Nibali showed how much power he had and left the field behind, gaining time on all his rivals. Nibali didn’t need to win the stage outright, but his performance gave notice to the rest of the cyclists he would not be giving up his yellow jersey without a big fight.
“My intention was to just control in the final climb but when I’ve seen Richie Porte in trouble, probably because of the heat, which can happen to anyone, my goal has become to gain important seconds over Valverde,” said Nibali after the stage.
“If I looked happier on the podium than on the occasions of my previous wins, it’s because I was delighted to have gained important seconds over Valverde and Porte.”
Nibali does not intend to relax now. “I expect more attacks tomorrow in another very hard stage and next week, there’ll be very important stages. My advantage over Porte is good now. He’s the rider I feared the most in the closing time trial. We’ll see if he’ll recover from the heat today or not. For the coming days, I only know that I have to remain quiet. There are still so many mountains ahead.”
In the race’s overall classification, Valverde moved past Porte into second place, but lost 48 seconds to Nibali. Bardet is in third, Pinot in fourth, and American Tejay Van Garderen moved up to fifth place, within reach perhaps of a podium finish. Veteran American Chris Horner of Lampre looked good and he is sitting in 15th place. Porte is now in 16th place, over 11 minutes behind. See the entire classification here.
Bardet kept the best young rider’s white jersey by a fraction over fellow countryman Pinot. Nibali snagged the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey thanks to his finish today. Peter Sagan retains the green sprinter’s jersey. Alessadro De Marchi of Cannondale won the most combative rider.
Stage 14 from Grenoble to Risoul takes competitors through their final stage in the Alps on Saturday. Riders will navigate two peaks, the Lautaret ant the Izoard before the summit finish in Risoul. Look for more attacks on Nibali here on the final summit climb as Valverde and Van Garderen try to take the leader’s yellow jersey and break his resolve.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Follow the Tour de France daily in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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