Hard work still ahead for Tour leader Nibali

Thu Jul 10, 2014 8:58am EDT
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By Julien Pretot

ARRAS France (Reuters) - The Tour de France has not even reached the mountains and Vincenzo Nibali has already built a sizeable advantage over his main rivals, yet hard work still lies ahead if the Italian is going to complete his collection of grand tour victories.

After a mediocre start to the season, Nibali has hit top form on the Tour, winning the second stage in aggressive style before strengthening his advantage with an impressive display on the cobbles in Wednesday's fifth stage.

Chris Froome was the biggest threat to his ambition of becoming the sixth rider to win all three grand tours, but the defending champion pulled out of the race after hitting the tarmac for the third time in two days on Wednesday.

Spain's twice former champion Alberto Contador struggled on the cobbled sectors and now trails the Astana rider by two minutes and 37 seconds.

Belgian Jurgen van den Broeck is the closest GC (general classification) contender in sixth place overall, 1:45 behind Nibali.

"He is obviously riding better than he has the rest of the year," Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters, whose lead rider Andrew Talansky is ninth overall, 2:05 off the pace, said of Nibali on Thursday before the start of the sixth stage.

"From appearances it seems like he is in a much better state than he was earlier in the year.

"I think those two minutes are hard to bring back."   Continued...

Asatana team rider Nibali of Italy wearing the race leader's yellow jersey arrives for the start of the 6th stage of the Tour de France between Arras and Reims, July 10, 2014.   REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen