With 4 miles to ride, it had shrunk from minutes to 40 seconds.
The Spaniard has become a savvier rider with age.
That was some drag race, and a big moment for BMC Racing Team’s Greg Van Avermaet, who pipped Peter Sagan to the line for Stage 13 honours at Le Tour de France. “Sometimes, when you change the rhythm, it can produce a surprise”. A team spokesman said he didn’t know Nibali’s salary. He won three the year before that. “On my side, the legs feel good, I’m looking forward to it and I hope it’s another day I can get through without any problems”.
The stage victory looked to have come down to a battle between Frenchmen as Romain Bardet attacked on the brutal final climb – 3km long at an average 10.1 percent gradient – ahead of the finish.
On an another hot day on the Tour, a 20-man breakaway took shape in a nervous start as a massive pile-up sent Swiss FDJ rider onto the ground and to the hospital with a broken collarbone.
There has also been threats made on social media towards Team Sky and Froome, although it is hard to gauge how serious these are.
With those mountains that straddle France and Spain behind them, the opportunities for podium contenders to eat into Froome’s comfortable race lead are starting to run out. The Sky team leader now has an overall lead of 3 minutes, 10 seconds over Quintana, who vaulted into second place, displacing van Garderen. He has lamented that he’s “not even the younger brother of the Nibali from a year ago”.
Froome retained his 2min 52sec overall lead of the race on a shorter final ascent on stage 13 but came under pressure from his rivals and expects more of the same on stage 14.
Sticky heat bothered the pack as it set off from Lannemezan on Thursday morning.
“A small cup of urine was thrown at me”, he said.
“I want to thank the thousands of supporters we had out there – I want to thank them all“. “I am not a specialist”.
Nairo Quintana stayed third, 3:09 adrift as the top of the general classification remained unchanged, with Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) still fifth, 4:03 back. “If that were the rule, the caravan would nearly be empty”, Armstrong said on cyclingnews.com.
Like an unwanted ghost, the American who was stripped of his seven Tour victories returned on Thursday to the fringes of the race, on a money-raising ride.
The 178-kilometer (111-mile) west-to-east route winds through plains and hills on the fringes of the Massif Central region, with a swing through the breathtaking Tarn gorges.