Jakob Fuglsang will take over the leadership role for Astana at the Tour de France after Vincenzo Nibali saw all hope of retaining his title go out the window on the first summit finish to La Pierre-Saint-Martin. Nibali was the biggest loser on stage 10, finishing over four minutes behind stage winner Chris Froome and has slipped to 10th overall.
“This day was a catastrophe. Nibali couldn’t even keep the pace with Fuglsang, which I had expected him to,” a clearly disappointed Alexandre Vinokourov said to Gazzetta dello Sport immediately after the stage. “We gave the green light to Jakob to go ahead in the classification. Vincenzo needs a good mechanic because something is broken in his head.
Fuglsang is actually behind Nibali in the overall standings, sitting in 13th at just over eight minutes back. However, his performance on the Col de Soudet impressed his boss enough to earn him the role as leader.
“We saw today that Jakob is in good shape, so why not? We try of course to do the best with Jacob now,” said Vinokourov. “Why not try to reach the top five with him.”
Fuglsang’s best performance at the Tour de France came in his debut season with Astana in 2013 where he went on to finish seventh. He had been set to lead the RadioShack-Nissan team at the Giro d’Italia but a knee injury put paid to that. He later indicated that he planned to leave the team at the end of the season and team manager Johan Bruyneel decided to pull him from any Grand Tour racing for the remainder of the season.
The Dane has been working for Nibali since the he joined the team last year and this will be the first chance for Fuglsang to lead the team at a Grand Tour in two years. Speaking to Danish television later on Tuesday, Fuglsang was unaware of his new status within the team.
“I have not heard it from him (Vinokourov), but it was their order that I should go if I had something anything left, after we had been sitting for a while with Vincenzo. Now we will see, I'm still well behind in the standings. Whether it's worth the drive for it, it we will see the next few days,” Fuglsang told Danish television channel TV2. “The Tour is far from over yet, anything can happen.”