Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) will aim to keep the maillot jaune on stage 5 of the Tour de France. The Sicilian has said that the most important thing is to keep his chances of overall victory alive on the race’s trek across the cobbles.
“The stage is important to begin with and now the weather is for rain, too. But if I were to lose the jersey, I wouldn’t lose my head about it,” Nibali said, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.
Nibali currently holds a two-second lead in the overall standings after landing a canny victory in Sheffield on Sunday at the end of a stage with a profile reminiscent of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Wednesday’s stage 5 takes the Tour into the heart of Paris-Roubaix country. The peloton will tackle nine sectors of pavé on the rocky road to Arenberg. Crashes and mechanical problems on the corresponding stage four years ago wreaked havoc in the bunch, and Nibali pointed out that the position of the team cars in the race convoy could be crucial.
“We’re second in the team classification so our car is at the front in the event of problems,” he said. “It could be a small advantage – if you puncture or have mechanical problems you could even lose a minute. I’m fairly capable when it comes to bike handling but in these days there are situations that get out of control.”
The riders had a fleeting taste of the cobbles on stage 4 to Lille and the portents were ominous, as the short stretch of pavé on the descent from Cassel briefly split the peloton. “We had a bit of pavé on a descent and the peloton split,” said Nibali, who acknowledged that his experience on the cobbles is limited. “I’ve never ridden Paris-Roubaix. I came across some cobbles at the Eneco Tour a few years ago but this is different.”
The favourite for overall victory, Chris Froome (Sky), was a faller in the opening kilometres of stage 4, picking up a wrist injury and cuts and bruises to his left hip and elbow, although an x-ray taken immediately afterwards showed no fractures.
“We found out almost immediately and when he got back on, I asked him how things were going,” Nibali said. “He wasn’t happy but I couldn’t say how that will affect him on the cobbles.”