Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali stamped his dominance on the Tour de France by winning the 10th stage in the Vosges mountains on Monday — shortly after his biggest rival for the title, two-time champion Alberto Contador, crashed out due to injury. Nibali, the Astana team leader, also regained the overall race lead in the 161.5-kilometer trek from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles in the eastern Vosges mountains.
With Contador out, Nibali is now the favourite to win his first Tour. He has already won the Italian Giro and the Spanish Vuelta — cycling’s other “Grand Tours” along with the Tour de France. Overall, he leads second-placed Richie Porte of Australia by nearly 2 1/2 minutes, with Valverde, who is third, almost 3 minutes back.
Crashes have taken a heavy toll this year. The departure of Contador, a 31-year-old Spaniard with Tinkoff-Saxo Bank, follows that of defending champion Chris Froome of Britain who crashed out in Stage 5. Before the race began this year, Froome and Contador were seen as the top two favorites. In Stage 1, British sprinting star Mark Cavendish crashed out, too. Contador’s withdrawal means that the Tour will have a first-time winner this year. Andy Schleck, the 2010 Tour champion, was the only three former Tour champions racing this year. Schleck dropped out before Stage 4 after sustaining an injury in yet another crash a day earlier.
According to his spokesman, Contador said he wasn’t exactly sure what caused the crash — which happened while he was speeding downhill at over 70 kph (about 40 mph) about halfway through the stage.
“He explained to me just a few minutes ago that he (hit) a stone or a hole in the road or something — and he crashed,” Contador spokesperson Jacinto Vidarte told The Associated Press by phone during the stage. “He couldn’t do anything about it.”