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July 14, 2019
Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour de France GC hopes were dashed for good on Saturday’s stage 8. The 2014 Tour champion finished 4:25 down on stage winner Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), giving up just under three minutes to the main GC group after losing touch on an up-and-down parcours.
“Now we will try to recover our energies and focus our attention on new goals, which can be stage wins,” said sports director Paolo Slongo, according to TuttoBiciWeb.
Having already ridden the Giro d’Italia this May, where he finished second overall behind Movistar’s Richard Carapaz, Nibali rolled into the Tour uncertain of his form. He told media he would take a wait-and-see approach—he was open about his plan to switch to stage-hunting if his general classification aspirations did not pan out.
Two tough stages in three days have effectively put the yellow jersey out of reach for Nibali now.
The writing may have been on the wall for the 34-year-old Italian after he finished 51 seconds behind the top-placed GC rider, Geraint Thomas (Ineos), on Thursday’s stage 6 to La Planche des Belles Filles. Although Bahrain-Merida teammate Dylan Teuns rode to the stage victory, Nibali lost touch when the pace picked up on the steep finishing climb.
Nevertheless, Nibali rode into stage 8 on the same time as Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and within 15 seconds of Movistar’s Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa, still in striking distance of a GC run if his stage 6 ride proved to be just a lone bad day.
The undulating profile of stage 8 was too much for Nibali, however. Both Porte and George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) said after the finish that the hilly, 200-kilometer day had been even harder than the mountainous stage to La Planche des Belles Filles, and that showed in the peloton.
With the pack maintaining a very high tempo into the finale in pursuit of the day’s breakaway, Nibali lost touch inside the final 20 kilometers and was quickly distanced without any teammates to help. Before long, he was minutes behind the bunch, which was down to fewer than 40 riders as it approached Saint-Étienne.
Nibali linked up with Italian compatriot Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) for the final run-in to the line and finished 3:59 behind the main GC group.
Vincenzo Nibali finishes stage 8 of the Tour de France alongside Italian compatriot Alberto Bettiol. Photo: Gregory van Gansen/Cor Vos © 2019
He now sits 6:18 down on race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-step), effectively ending any yellow jersey aspirations he may still have had eight days into the race.
On the bright side, Nibali will now have much more freedom to go on the attack as the mountains loom, which could bode well for his chances at nabbing a sixth career Tour de France stage victory in the coming days.