Vincenzo Nibali took advantage of the absence of several top contenders on Monday, winning Stage 10 of the 2014 Tour de France in dominant fashion.
Launching an attack on the final climb of the day, La Planche des Belles Filles, the Italian flew up the slope and put some serious distance between himself and the rest of the leaderboard, taking a strong option on the yellow jersey.
|4||Jean Christophe Peraud||AG2R||+20|
|6||Tejay van Garderen||BMC||+22|
|7||Richie Porte||Team Sky||+25|
|10||Mikel Nieve||Team Sky||+54|
Monday's stage took a turn for the worst early, with two-time winner Alberto Contador crashing out of the 2014 Tour. The Spaniard fell hard on his knee and required extensive work from the doctors before he got back on his bike.
El Pistolero tried to continue his journey for several miles, but the pain became unbearable. The pack lost his second of three overall favourites for the win this year, with Chris Froome dropping out last week, via British Eurosport:
Rival Froome felt very bad for the Spaniard:
Big loss for the TDF today. Recover well @albertocontador & I hope to see you at the Vuelta.— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) July 14, 2014
A group of nine riders made an early break from the peloton, including Thomas Voeckler and Joaquim Rodriguez, who both mounted an attack on the polka-dot jersey.
The two would go head-to-head for the bulk of the stage, breaking away from the leading group near every summit before falling back and resting up until the next climb.
As shared by Le Tour de France, the battle for the mountain classification truly became an epic one:
The peloton gave the leading group space on the first four climbs but started speeding up when word of Contador's struggles reached them. Riding for Nibali, the Astana team quickly made their way forward and started pushing the tempo.
Yellow-jersey Tony Gallopin was never expected to hold on to his position at the top of the leaderboard for very long, and with Michal Kwiatkowski joining the break at the front, the Frenchman virtually lost his jersey in quick fashion, via Le Tour de France:
Peter Sagan showed his prowess in the descent and took top marks in the intermediary sprint, further solidifying his spot at the top of the points classification.
Astana and Lotto-Belisol took control of the peloton heading for the final two climbs, hoping to get the deficit down to three minutes before the climbing started. As Lotto-Belisol's official Twitter account pointed out, the pack was right on schedule:
#TDF 3km to go till the Col des Croix (3rd cat.): 3.2 km long and 6.2% average. Peloton at 3'40" of the leaders.— Lotto Belisol (@Lotto_Belisol) July 14, 2014
The leading group had just over two minutes left when the peloton attacked the Col de Chevreres, but with a long descent to La Planche des Belles Filles still on the schedule, all hope was not lost. Kwiatkowski took the lead and exploded on the steep slopes, ripping the top group to shreds, with only Rodriguez able to follow.
Gallopin and Andrew Talansky couldn't keep up with the fast pace in the peloton, effectively ending their hopes for the general classification heading into the first rest day.
Rodriguez went solo right at the base of La Planche des Belles Filles, while Astana kept making the pace in the peloton, the situation ever improving for Nibali. The Italian launched a sensational attack inside the final three kilometers, blowing past a struggling Kwiatkowski within 30 seconds.
The Italian found Rodriguez with a kilometer left to go, a cruel fate for the Spaniard who deserved a glorious solo finish after such a great day of attacking cycling. Rodriguez eventually cracked on the final ramp, over 20 percent, but the polka-dot jersey will be a nice consolation prize.
Nibali blew his competition for the general classification out of the water, and Astana are the big winners heading into the first rest day.
|2||Richie Porte||Team Sky||+2:23|
|7||Tejay van Garderen||BMC||+3:56|
|8||Jean Christophe Peraud||AG2R||+3:57|
|7||Greg Van Avermaet||BMC||87|
|6||Alessandro De Marchi||Cannondale||17|
The peloton will have a rest day on Tuesday, before making their way toward the high mountains of the Alps. With Contador and Froome no longer in the mix for the general classification, the pressure will be on Nibali to finally win his first Tour de France.
Astana won't be getting any help from the rest of the pack, however, and with several teams no longer riding for their top riders, the door is now wide open for an outsider to shock the world.