Is this year's Tour over already? After another impressive display of power from Vincenzo Nibali on the race's first hors categorie summit finish, it appears it might be. Nibali was already clear of half the riders in the top ten of the general classification when he jumped clear of Thibault Pinot, Alejandro Valverde, and Bauke Mollema with a substantial 6.6 kilometers remaining on the final climb, much earlier than he has historically attacked on summit finishes. He quickly bridged to the leading duo of Leopold Konig and Rafael Majka before leaving them behind 3.5 kilometers from the line. Nibali's accelerations, first to join Valverde, then to bridge the large gap to the leading duo gave the impression of a man not yet on his limit. When he went solo, he simply rode away from Majka and Konig without getting out of the saddle or visibly changing his effort. Now, Nibali leads Valverde by 3'37" and Romain Bardet by 4'24" and the biggest climbing days are yet to come.
On a day when Nibali could have simply ridden defensively, holding almost 2.5 minutes advantage on second placed Richie Porte, he took the race by the scruff of its neck and shouted to the rest of the major contenders that they could have his maillot jaune when they pry it from his cold, dead fingers. Nibali's nerve and power were even more impressive as he was isolated on the final 18 kilometer climb to Chamrouse after Jakob Fuglsang crashed on the descent of the penultimate climb. Though he was able to continue riding, his mishap left Nibali with only Tanel Kangert to assist him on the final climb while Valverde had multiple Movistar riders and several other contenders had lieutenants by their side. The only weakness Nibali seems to have at this point is his team, which has ridden strongly so far but must be starting to feel the fatigue and pressure from defending the yellow jersey all the way from Stage 2. If Fuglsang is impeded tomorrow, it might open the door for more aggressive riding by Valverde and Pinot among others, but for Nibali to wilt under such pressure would be out of character with his riding thus far.
Behind Nibali's dominance, the battle for the remaining podium spots was intense. Once Nibali attacked, Mollema was dropped and Valverde and Pinot commenced hand-waving, attacking each other, and generally refusing to play nicely together as they seemed to succumb to fighting for second and third rather than trying to limit their losses. Romain Bardet leapt out of the third group of favorites and was joined by Tejay van Garderen, who willingly shared pace duties with them. The aftermath saw Bardet and van Garderen moving up while others - most notably Richie Porte, who lost over six minutes on a jour sans, dropping out of the top ten altogether.
|1||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team||5:12:29|
|2||Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo||0:00:10|
|3||Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura||0:00:11|
|4||Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team||0:00:50|
|5||Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr||0:00:53|
|6||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team||0:01:23|
|7||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|8||Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling||0:01:36|
|9||Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:02:09|
|10||Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing|
|1||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team||56:44:03|
|2||Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team||0:03:37|
|3||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:04:24|
|4||Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr||0:04:40|
|5||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team||0:05:19|
|6||Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:06:06|
|7||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling||0:06:17|
|8||Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol||0:06:27|
|9||Rui Alberto Costa (Por) Lampre - Merida||0:08:35|
|10||Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura||0:08:36