Tour de France: I'm right where I wanted to be, says Nibali

2014 winner expects next three days in the Alps to be 'very selective'

Bahrain-Merida leader Vincenzo Nibali is ready for three tough days in the mountains, and says he's right where he wants to be with nine days of racing at the 2018 Tour de France ticked off.

The 2014 Tour de France winner starts stage 10 on Tuesday in 12th place overall – 1:48 behind race leader Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), but 1:05 behind Team Sky's Geraint Thomas and just six seconds down on Thomas' Sky teammate and the defending Tour champion Chris Froome.

While falling short of saying that he'll go on the offensive in the Alps, Nibali said that the three upcoming mountain stages will be "very selective".

"We'll have to see how the race unfolds," the Italian told L'Equipe. "We'll have to see whether anyone goes on the attack, or whether it will be a case of waiting until later in the race.

"So far, we haven't really had any significant climbs to see anyone do anything, except for Dan Martin on the Mûr-de-Bretagne [on stage 6]," he said. "But after nine days, I'm where I wanted to be. I was hoping not to lose any time before the mountains."

Concerns that Nibali doesn't have a strong enough team to support him in the mountains were batted away as unimportant by the 33-year-old Italian.

"I've heard and read the criticism about my team," Nibali continued. "But I'm the kind of rider who doesn't need a whole team around me to do well: I can do it alone, or with just one or two teammates. In sprinting terms, it's like comparing Mario Cipollini, who needed a whole sprint train, to Robbie McEwen, who could do well on his own."

Nibali had teammates Domenico Pozzovivo and Heinrich Haussler on hand to help him through Sunday's ninth stage on the cobbles between Arras and Roubaix.

"The beginning of that stage was the most difficult part," Nibali said on the Bahrain-Merida website. "Everybody wanted to stay at the front, but the roads were narrow and the pace was very high."

Nibali was involved in a crash with less then 70km of the 156.5km stage to go, but was unhurt and was able to get back to the front of the race with the help of his teammates.

"From then on, I stayed at the front of the race, but it was really hard because every time we were on the cobblestone sectors, everybody pushed to get right to the front, and the speed was always high.

"It was a hard day, and I’m tired, but happy," Nibali said.

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