Nibali gains more ground as Majka prevails in the Alps

Vincenzo Nibali strengthened his stranglehold on the Tour de France when he gained further ground over his rivals in the second Alpine stage won by Poland’s Rafal Majka on Saturday.

By (Agencies)

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Published: Sun 20 Jul 2014, 11:17 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 10:59 PM

Poland’s Rafal Majka celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the end of the 177 km fourteenth stage. — AFP

Poland’s Rafal Majka celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the end of the 177 km fourteenth stage. — AFP

Astana rider Nibali finished the 14th stage, a 177-km mountain trek from Grenoble, in second place but beat Alejandro Valverde, who had a bad day, by 1:10 as the battle for second overall looks set to go to the wire.

Valverde trails Nibali by 4:37 overall with Romain Bardet in third place 13 seconds further back after he, fellow Frenchman Thibaut Pinot and American Tejay van Garderen dropped Valverde in the closing stages of the final climb to the ski resort of Risoul.

Pinot is fourth overall 5:06 off the pace, 43 seconds ahead of Van Garderen while another Frenchman, Jean-Christophe Peraud, is sixth (6:08) after taking third place in the stage.

Nibali the boss

Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour de France rivals now know who the “boss” is, according to the Italian’s Astana team manager Alexander Vinokourov.

Nibali won his third stage of the Tour in the Alps on Friday, first riding away from his main rivals Alejandro Valverde and Thibaut Pinot before also leaving breakaway pair Rafal Majka and Leopold Konig in his irrepressible wake.

“He showed he is the boss in the Tour. (Friday) they all understood and they let him do it,” said the Kazakh, who nonetheless checked his own euphoria. “You win the Tour in Paris. It’s true we’ve taken a great step towards the final victory, we’ve got a team that’s working well, but there are still some tough days to come.” Nibali’s management of the Tour so far, not to mention the injury withdrawals of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, have created a feeling that the rest are riding for second place.

And that at least promises to be a thrilling battle with Spanish veteran Valverde, young Frenchmen Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet, as well as American Tejay Van Garderen all in the fight.

One rider who will no longer be in that battle for a podium is Australian Richie Porte, who suffered terribly in the searing heat of Friday, where temperatures reached 35 degrees Celsius, and came home almost nine minutes behind Nibali to drop from second to 16th overall at more than 11 minutes.

Porte wasn’t giving up all hope, though. “I don’t think I dealt with the heat very well. It’s one of those things. It’s a massive shame but we’ll see what happens (Saturday),” said Porte.

“I feel more for my team-mates who have been brilliant for me every day. If it happens to me it can happen to other guys too. We’ll just keep on pushing.”

The doom and gloom around the Team Sky camp, with Froome at home in Monaco nursing a broken hand and wrist and Porte now out of the reckoning, contrasted sharply with the euphoria in the host nation.

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