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."

Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game