The Shark Takes a Deeper Bite into Competition

nibbles stage 18Vicenzo Nibali (Astana) won his fourth stage at the Tour de France on Thursday, solidifying his lead.

Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, known as “The Shark of Messina,” won stage 18 of the Tour de France and now holds a lead of more than seven minutes over Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). Only an accident or extreme bad luck can prevent Nibali from winning the 101st Tour when it ends on Sunday in Paris.

horner attacksThe winning move: Nibali marked Chris Horner’s attack.

Thursday was the final day in the Pyrenees. The stage began in the city of Pau and traveled over the Col du Tourmalet before finishing up the famous climb to Hautacam ski area. With six miles to go, American Chris Horner (Lampre) attacked the yellow jersey group. Nibali responded, closely marking Horner’s wheel. Then Nibali sought revenge. He dropped Horner, who beat him to win last year’s Vuelta a España. Nibali rode away from Horner with ease as if he were on a flat road instead of a steep mountain climb. He caught the day’s escapees, passed them all, and won the stage by 1:10, further securing the yellow jersey on his back.

pinot groupThe Best Young Rider leads the chase after Nibali.

The next group of riders were fighting for the leftovers: podium places and jersey points. France’s Thibaut Pinot finished after Nibali and holds onto the Best Young Rider white jersey. Poland’s Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), who won yesterday’s stage, finished third today and remains the King of the Mountains. Jean-Christian Peraud (AG2R) finished fourth and moved up to third overall. And American Tejay van Garderen (BMC) finished fifth.

valverde stage18Moviestar’s team leader worried about his finish, 1:54 behind Nibali.

Further down the road, Spain’s Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) cracked and lost almost two minutes on the stage. He slipped from second to fourth in the overall classification.

Nibali has now won four stages and has been in the yellow jersey for 16 days– unheard of in the modern era at the Tour de France. Could it be the lack of competition or perhaps the result of riders clean from doping? Who knows. But it has certainly been a unique Tour.

tejay attackThe moment Valverde lost his second place. When Van Garderen (top in red) attacked, The 34-year-old Valverde (bottom right) had nothing left in his legs. Valverde finished :45 behind the young guns.

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