Having held the Tour de France's yellow jersey since pulling off a daring solo attack into Sheffield on stage 2, Vincenzo Nibali and his Astana team were happy to let Frenchman Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) take over the race lead after he made his way into the breakaway which was allowed to succeed by the Astana controlled chase.
Gallopin will have now the honour of riding in the maillot jaune on Bastille Day, France's national holiday on stage 10 to La Plance des Belle Filles and with a 1:34 minute advantage over Nibali, could still hold the jersey for the Tour's first rest day — relieving Nibali from the time consuming protocols of the podium and press.
After stage nine to Mulhouse which was won by Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Astana team manager Alexandre Vinokourov explained the team's tactics of letting the jersey go.
"We saw that Gallopin was in that group but we were not going to kill our team to keep the jersey," he said. "The most important thing was to save energy for tomorrow's stage.
"Tomorrow will be another great finale between Vincenzo and Alberto [Contador] at La Planche des Belles Filles. This yellow jersey was a present for France."
Nibali is still the best placed GC contender in the race and was unconcerned about losing the race lead to Gallopin as he said after the stage.
"We knew that today was a day for breaks," Nibali said, "Nobody helped us with the chasing and so we worked all day. Tony Gallopin took the jersey but it's not worth losing sleep about. Now tomorrow [Monday] it won't be up to us to work and we'll see what happens."
Astana team director Giuseppe Martinelli echoed the Italian national champion's sentiments, adding; "We did not lose the jersey, we left it. It was a good move because we need to keep strength for tomorrow. It will be the toughest stage in this first part of the Tour. Before the start we would have dreamt to lead Contador by 2:30 at that stage."
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