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Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
Italian holds firm under constant attacks on Mont Ventoux
Vincenzo Nibali, 24, showed himself to be a stage racer of the future in Saturday's Tour de France stage 20, up Mont Ventoux. He remained with the favourites to protect his seventh overall and achieve his pre-race goal of a top ten finish.
"It was a really difficult stage," Nibali (Liquigas) told Cyclingnews. "I thought it might be like this, anything could have happened, but in the end the classification men always stayed together."
Nibali remained with race leader Alberto Contador (Astana) throughout the day, similar to his ride in the last Alpine stages a few days ago. Team Saxo Bank's Andy Schleck attacked in an effort to distance Contador, but the Spaniard always came back to his wheel, as did Nibali.
"I was in oxygen debt in the last kilometre and a half but I held tough. I tried to gain time on Andreas Klöden and Bradley Wiggins when they were dropped."
He gained five seconds on Wiggins and 0:44 on Klöden, but was short of the time needed to move up in the overall rankings.
"I had tried an attack when Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador went forward. I was hoping for something then, but it all came back together. Everyone was pulling behind because they had interests in protecting their classification position."
Nibali remained in seventh overall, 7:35 behind Contador, but achieved his goal of a top ten overall in the Tour de France. Andy Schleck, Lance Armstrong, Wiggins, Fränk Schleck and Klöden were second through sixth.
"I went strong through all the stages and also in the time trial Thursday. Contador was strongest, but I was with the others by only a small amount of time, 20 to 30 seconds. It was a very positive tour because I kept consistent."
The 2009 Tour de France ends tomorrow in Paris. Stage 21 is a flat stage that isn't expected to provide any re-ordering in the general classification.
Nibali finished 18th overall in his debut Tour de France last year.