Vincenzo Nibali happy to let go of Tour de France lead

Astana happy not to have to work during Monday's mountains stage, letting Tony Gallopin wear the yellow jersey

Vincenzo Nibali on stage nine of the 2014 Tour de France
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Vincenzo Nibali and his Astana team made a tactical move on the roads to Mulhouse in eastern France. Instead pulling an escape in, they let the Tour de France's yellow jersey slip away to escapee Tony Gallopin.

"We paid for the jersey, its normal, we took it on the second day," the Sicilian said.

"The team worked all the day even today, more than that we can't do. Gallopin won the jersey but we shouldn't lose our heads over it."

Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) gained five minutes on Nibali, jumped from 11th to first overall and took over the yellow jersey by 1-34 minutes. Astana worked all day but not at 100% so that the escape would succeed.

The move shifted the weight from Nibali to Gallopin, who had to go through the usual post-race protocol of TV interviews, press conferences and anti-doping controls. It is an unforgettable day, especially for a Frenchman, but one that will cost him around an extra hour of recovery.

"In the same situation we'd do that," Sky's general manager, David Brailsford said. "That means you don't have to do the media tonight, you don't have to stress about everything and get ready for tomorrow.

"The tactics don't change. Take Gallopin out of it, the race is still the race, it just changes who wears the yellow jersey and will start controlling it tomorrow."

Tomorrow the Tour de France faces La Planche des Belles Filles stage, which closes with a 5.9-kilometre climb. With Gallopin and the other escapees today factored out, Nibali leads by 1-58 over Sky's Richie Porte, 2-26 over Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma), 2-27 over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and 2-34 over Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Contador is seen as Nibali's biggest threat. Had he had the jersey, though, his team would not have let it go. "I don't understand why Nibali let it go," Tinkoff team manager, Bjarne Riis said. "We would not have done that if that was us."

"We just let it go so that the team could work less today," Astana's team manager, Giuseppe Martinelli said.

"Tomorrow's going to be important. It's also important, to get that extra hour of rest this evening. We did it for the economy of the team, not to just gift the jersey. Lotto will try to maintain it tomorrow and we can stay on the team's wheels a little instead of working all day."

Gallopin was clearly happy with Astana's decision. He said, "I have to thank the Astana team, they didn't chase us down and allowed me to take the yellow jersey."

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