Tour de France: Britons on brink of history but Nibali refuses to go away

 

Bagnères-de-Luchon

The Tour de France's top three – but not the final order – was all but decided on yesterday's second of three Pyrenean stages as Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Italy's Vincenzo Nibali formed a working alliance to gain time on their overall rivals.

Should either or both of the two Britons, who are currently first and second in the overall standings, remain in the top three spots after today's final mountain stage, the path is clear, barring a disaster, for the first GB rider in the race's 108-year history to stand on the final podium in Paris.

"It's been a big step forward, all things being equal," Sky sports director Sean Yates said yesterday. "Nibali's proved he's the top guy [rival] and he's not given up hope, but tomorrow is not so hard and his chances will be more limited."

Yates described the Britons' position as "history in the making. And there's no getting away from that. The guys are doing what they've got to do but it's never been seen before."

When Nibali's Liquigas squad upped the pace on the Aspin, the second-last climb, the front pack shrank to around 20, with 2011 Tour winner Cadel Evans sliding instantly out the back on what proved to be a nightmare day for him.

The veteran Australian's difficulties intensified radically when Liquigas piled on the pressure again on the Peyresourde, and when Nibali made the first of two attacks, shattering the front group, the gaps yawned even wider.

His head almost touching the bars, and shoulders swaying from side to side as he battled to limit the gap in intense heat, Evans lost nearly five minutes and all hopes of a second Tour win.

Nibali's move brought a response from just two riders – Froome and Wiggins. Spinning a characteristically high gear, Froome paced his team-mate and Tour leader up to the Italian's back wheel, and the three formed a working alliance over the Peyresourde summit that gained them nearly a minute on their closest rivals by the finish.

"I am pleased because I always said my ambition was the podium," Nibali said. He then warned his two Sky rivals that their alliance can only go so far: "Being up there, you always want something more."

The stage win itself went to France's Thomas Voeckler, who shed breakaway companion Bryce Feillu on the Peyresourde to claim his second triumph in three years at Bagnères- de-Luchon and the King of the Mountains jersey.

The Tour, meanwhile, faces its final mountain-top finish today, the 15.4-kilometre climb of , which effectively represents Nibali's last chance to dislodge Froome and Wiggins. Should he fail, then only a last-minute disaster will prevent Britain from converting their first visits to a Tour's final podium into the country's first overall victory.

"It's nothing like as hard," Yates said. "The Port de Bales [the second last climb] is hard, but then you're on the last climb [Peyragudes] before you know it and the opportunity for gaining time is relatively limited.

"The game's still on, and it's not over until we reach Paris, but I think at the moment we're looking good."

Frank Schleck claims he may have been "poisoned" and has requested the analysis of his B sample after testing positive for the banned diuretic Xipamide which resulted in his withdrawal from the Tour on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old, who finished third in the 2011 Tour, said in a statement: "I categorically deny taking any banned substance. I have no explanation for the test result and therefore insist that the B sample be tested.

"If this analysis confirms the initial result, I will argue that I have been the victim of poisoning."

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions