Nibali's rivals bracing for battle of the Vosges

Fri Jul 11, 2014 5:31pm EDT
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By Julien Pretot

NANCY France (Reuters) - With defending champion Chris Froome out of the picture the Tour de France looks wide open despite Vincenzo Nibali's decent advantage, with his rivals poised to set off fireworks in the testing Vosges massif.

Italian champion Nibali leads his main yellow jersey rivals by at least one minute 45 seconds as the race heads into its first mountain stint on Saturday and Team Sky will not be there to control the race as they did in the past two editions.

The Astana rider impressed with a brilliant display on the cobbles in Wednesday's fifth stage while most of the other top contenders struggled.

For those with designs on Nibali's place at the top of the general classification, a group that includes Alberto Contador, Jurgen van den Broeck, Andrew Talansky, Tejay van Garderen, Richie Porte and Alejandro Valverde, attack is the only option in the coming three stages.

"It's all for the taking, the Vosges are a fantastic place to attack, the stages have been well designed," Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Philippe Mauduit told Reuters.

His team leader, Contador, lies in 16th place overall, 2:37 off the pace.

Van Garderen's (18th at 3:14) BMC sports director Yvon Ledanois said: "The breaking point is here. There has been a lot of tension since the start of the Tour and there is a lot of fatigue already.

"That is why a lot of riders will crack in the Vosges."   Continued...

Astana team rider Vincenzo Nibali (2ndL) of Italy cycles in the pack of riders on its way during the 234.5 km seventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race from Epernay to Nancy July 11, 2014.REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen