Tour de France: Wiggins and Nibali pay tribute to teams after big Pyrenéen battle
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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tour de France: Wiggins and Nibali pay tribute to teams after big Pyrenéen battle

by Ben Atkins at 3:34 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Podium remains unchanged but both riders have put distance into other rivals

bradley wigginsBradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) both paid tribute to their teams at the end of the 16th stage of the Tour de France, after the pair of them did battle across the Pyrénées. Team Sky marshalled the peloton for most of the stage, as it crossed the Cols d’Aubisque and Tourmalet, but Nibali put his green and blue men to work on the latter climbs of the Aspin and Peyresourde in order to put the yellow jersey under pressure.

In the end, despite some fierce attacks from Nibali on the Peyresourde, he and Wiggins arrived at the finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon together, along with Wiggins teammate Chris Froome. The three riders still occupy the same places on the podium, with Wiggins maintaining his 2’05” lead over Froome, and 2’23” over Nibali, but their pace on the final climb put time into all of the other overall contenders.

“The team were brilliant from the off and we knew what we had to do,” Wiggins said afterwards. “It was just a case of doing what we’ve been doing since the start of this race which is riding together as a team. It was another tough one, and obviously there weren’t many bodies left at the end. It’s good to get that one out of the way.
 
“This is what we’ve trained for and that’s what we’ve prepared for,” he explained. “We’ve trained for the demands of this race and for the demands of what this race consisted of in the third week. I think that’s what makes us the best riders in this race. All year it’s been about this and training in this kind of heat and for these climbs. The fitness and the recovery has been a team effort.

“The backroom staff - with the hydration when the stages finish and those little things all add up over the three weeks.”

As the Aspin steepened Nibali put Liquigas-Cannondale teammates Dominik Nerz and Ivan Basso to work, to put his rivals under pressure. Basso’s work particularly, managed to drop defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) quite quickly - with the Australian having a bad day - but it was Nibali’s own attacks on the Peyresourde than managed to get rid of the others.

“It was a really hard stage,” Nibali explained, “both for the climbs both for the hot weather. I tried to attack with three accelerations to test Wiggins and Froome, but then the descent was not suited for an attack so I decided to save energy.

“At the start I thought of looking for the stage victory but then the break took a great advantage to pull back,” he continued. “I’m happy for the third place in GC and for today’s performance, but I always search something more. Ivan Basso was great super-domestique, simply fantastic, as well as other of my teammates. We wanted to wear down Team Sky but our selection managed to get rid of Evans.”

Froome had chased down Nibali’s first big attack, and only Wiggins was able to follow the British rider, but the yellow jersey himself had to chase down the “Shark’s” final big move, in the steep final kilometre of the climb.

“[Nibali] is a class bike rider,” said Wiggins. “The guy has won the Vuelta, he's been on the podium at the Giro... and you can never underestimate him. It's nice to be able to finish with him.

“I don't think that the others have eased up trying to beat me and start thinking of the other places on the podium,” he continued. “Not yet. They gave us a good go over on the climbs today and tomorrow is another day, another challenge. I guess everyone will also start thinking about the time trial and things. That's a mountainous stage in itself. Another day ticked off and tomorrow is a whole other day.”

Thursday will see a second big day in the Pyrénées, with a short - 143.5km - but very sharp loop between today’s finish at Bagnères-de-Luchon, and the ski resort of Peyragudes, which sits above the Peyresourde. Despite the 1st category Col de Menté early on, most of the day’s challenges will come in the final 50km, with the steep Port de Balès coming before the side of the Peyresourde that was descended today, and the never before used climb to the finish.

“Tomorrow’s stage will be hard like today but with every day that passes it becomes more difficult to undermine Froome and Wiggins,” said Nibali. It will be also the last opportunity to find a stage victory: the cherry on the cake of a great Tour.

“The warmth of the crowds is something beautiful,” he concluded. “They ask me to attack and I try to give them emotions.”

For Wiggins, whose position looks even stronger with just one more day in the mountains, the Team Sky routine continues as he prepares to take on the next stage. “We've got a good scenario for the final day in the mountains but the process now starts,” said the British rider, “Recovering, eating, drinking lots and getting ready right away... I'll have a warm down and start thinking about tomorrow.”

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