As he raised his head to speak to the media gathered around him, he finally showed an expression of satisfaction, after going on the attack on the descent of the Col de Manse and gaining a handful of seconds on his fellow general classification contenders. Nibali finished 26 seconds ahead of Chris Froome (Tram Sky). He is still only eighth overall but broke below the eight-minute barrier, moving to 7:39 down on the yellow jersey.
“I suffered a lot again today and it’s seems like back luck is still following me around because I’ve picked up a bit of a cold,” Nibali revealed.
“But I still wanted to try something and so I attacked on the descent. I didn’t gain a lot of time but it went well. I can be a little proud of what I did today.”
Nibali was at the centre of attention on the second rest day of last year’s Tour de France, with the media packing his press conference and reporting his every word. The Italian media will no doubt follow him in training and speak to him at length but he is no longer considered an overall contender or even with a chance of finishing on the podium in Paris.
Nibali has set himself the new goal of trying to win a stage. It will be a show of Sicilian pride after failing to live up to expectations at this year’s Tour de France.
“My goal is to perhaps win a stage as a way of thanking all the people who have continued to encourage me despite all my problems in this Tour,” Nibali said.
“We’ll see what happens on he other side of the rest day. There are still a lot of tough days to come where e can try something. I can only hope that my form gets better.”
Wednesday’s stage to Pra-Loup could be Nibali’s first chance of redemption thanks to the long descent of the Col d’Allos before a short climb up to the finish in Pra-Loup. Romain Bardet (ag2r-La Mondiale) won that way during the Criterium di Dauphine in June but there are more riders looking for success at the Tour de France and a far more complex tactical pattern at play in the final week of the Tour de France.
Nibali will also need the form and climbing ability to reach the top of the Col d’Allos with the leaders before having any chance of attacking on the descent.