Heading towards his title defence at the Tour de France, Vincenzo Nibali did not want to be seen going backwards in a race while others like Chris Froome, Simon Yates and Tejay van Garderen rode ahead. That is what happened, however, in the Critérium du Dauphiné yesterday on the same Pra Loup climb that will feature in the Tour in july
The Sicilian king of the 2014 Tour lost contact at three kilometres from the summit finish. Sky’s Froome attacked. Van Garderen (BMC) countered and placed second behind solo escapee Roman Bardet (Ag2r) to take the leader’s yellow jersey. Simon Yates (Orica) placed fifth.
The Critérium du Dauphiné is not over, it still has three summit finish stages before it ends on Sunday. However, if this was the fight for seconds at the Tour, which uses the same 161-kilometre stage on July 22, Nibali would be essentially knocked out of the yellow jersey battle.
The organiser’s green-shirt helpers pushed the leaders one by one up the road after they crossed the line. Nibali, in his Italian champion jersey, needed it more than others because he said that his motor felt flooded all day and that he could not push his legs as normal.
“It happens rarely, almost never,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. “That’s what happened, though.”
Nibali sits 13th overall behind van Garderen at 1-33 minutes. Heading to the base of Pra Loup and the climb to the finish before Froome attacked, he had already warned team-mate Michele Scarponi that he was not feeling well.
“I preferred to just ride at my own pace, and not make any extra efforts. To go over the top at this moment wouldn’t help,” Nibali said. “I suffered a little bit from allergies, I felt blocked. I couldn’t give any more.”
Nibali gave plenty to his rivals Tuesday when Astana finished second in the time trial behind BMC. He finished 19 seconds ahead of Yates and his Orica team and 31 to Sky and Froome. Only 48 hours later, the situation changed from seconds to minutes – and not in Nibali’s favour.
The defending Tour champion last won when he accepted the trophy on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, July 27. Since then, he has been busier than normal with sponsor and team commitments, and answering questions about his team-mates’ doping cases.
His best stage race result this year was 10th in the Tour de Romandie, where he said afterwards, “I’m not going how I’d like to be”.
However, this is the same Nibali who did not win last year until June 28 at the national championships. One week later, he won in Sheffield, took the yellow jersey and began his march towards the Tour title. A lot can happen between now and Paris, but changes might need to begin sooner rather than later if he is going to have a chance to win the Tour again.
Critérium du Dauphiné stage five video highlights