Astana leader ready for the battle on the road to La Planche des Belles Filles
Vincenzo Nibali initially headed to the Tour de France podium area after the finish of stage 9 to Mulhouse, perhaps thinking he had to climb on the podium. Of course the tactical decision by his Astana team to let the attackers stay away and so let Tony Gallopin (Lotto Belisol) pull on the yellow jersey, meant the Sicilian was free to head back to the Astana team bus.
Speaking briefly before climbing aboard the bus, every team's safe haven at a race, Nibali seemed content to have lost the responsibilities of Tour de France race leadership but also appeared a little nervous before Monday's stage 10, where there will be an expected showdown on the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles.
"The team worked hard all day after everyone seemed to want to go in the break," he said still wearing his helmet and glasses and looking tired.
"We knew that today was a day for breaks. Nobody helped us with the chasing and so we worked all day. Tony Gallopin took the jersey but it's not worth losing sleep about. Now tomorrow (Monday) it won’t be up to us to work and we’ll see what happens.
"Today was really hard and we got through it okay. I think Pierre Rolland was the only real GC contender to gain time and perhaps we could say Tony Martin too but tomorrow's stage is tough, a real mountain finish."
Nibali is now 1:34 minutes behind Gallopin in the overall classification but will probably not worry about the Frenchman, and instead focus on his biggest rivals for the final yellow jersey in Paris in two weeks time.
Richie Porte (Team Sky) is closest, 1:58 behind, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) is at 2:26, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is at 2:27 and his number one rival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) is at 2:34.
The Astana team has defended the jersey and protected Nibali as much as possible in the first eight days of the Tour de France. Jakob Fuglsang seems strong and is still fourth overall but the rest of the team is showing signs of fatigue. Climbers Michele Scarponi, Tanel Kangert and Lieuwe Westra will play a vital role in the mountains.
"I spoke to Michele (Scarponi), and the other riders did a lot of work, so they're tired but we'll see what happens. I've lost the jersey but I'll have some extra time to rest up for tomorrow. We'll be ready."
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