As befits a nation of polyglots, the Dutch fans making merry around the finish area after the opening time trial of the Tour de France in Utrecht were able to hail Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) in his own language as he soft-pedalled past.
“Bravissimo Squalo!” one boisterous local shouted repeatedly as he tried to keep pace with Nibali in order to take a selfie with the defending champion. Such are the downsides of the Tour in the smartphone era.
At that point, Nibali was himself trying to understand where his performance – 22nd on the stage, 43 seconds down on winner Rohan Dennis (BMC) – had placed him in relation to his principal rivals for final overall victory.
“I don’t know the times but the sensations were good,” Nibali told reporters at the finish line. On arrival at the Astana team bus, his coach Paolo Slongo was able to inform him that he had gained time on the other members of the Tour’s Big Four.