He’s already been on the back foot due to time loss earlier in the first week. Vincenzo Nibali started Saturday’s eighth stage of the Tour de France one minute 38 seconds behind the race leader Chris Froome, one of several he must beat if he is to win his second Tour, but things continued to head in the wrong way by the finish of the Mur de Bretagne.
Nibali was part of the lead group racing towards the summit but got into difficulties near the top and slipped out of the back of that pack.
He crossed the line twenty second behind the solo winner Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r La Mondiale). More importantly, at least in terms of the general classification, he dropped ten seconds to Froome, Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
“In the finale, I didn’t have good sensations,” he admitted afterwards. “At the start of the stage, I was okay but when the accelerations took place, I was unable to react. It was a bad day.”
The Italian is now one minute 48 seconds off yellow and needs a strong team time trial performance on Sunday to try to reduce that deficit. However even if things go well, he still has a lot of work to do in the upcoming mountains if he is to stand any chance of successfully defending his Tour title.
His team director Giuseppe Martinelli is adamant that no further errors or weaknesses can occur.
“I can’t understand what happened,” he said, clearly also surprised by how the stage evolved. “We must believe it was bad day, otherwise this Tour is going to be complicated. We cannot afford any other mistakes.”