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Taking Stock: Halfway through the Tour, Sky is in the driver’s seat

While Evans was licking his wounds, Nibali and the Liquigas squad left Monday’s time trial quietly optimistic.

Like everyone else, Nibali lost time to Wiggins and teammate Chris Froome, but gave up very little to Evans (24 seconds) and gained on all of his other GC rivals.

The 2010 Vuelta a España champion says there are still plenty of chances to attack in the coming days in the Alps and Pyrénées.

“It’s too early to throw in the towel,” Nibali said. “We will have to try to invent some action in the mountains. Evans will have to attack, too. There’s still some terrain to do it.”

Nibali will probably like the narrower, steep roads in the Pryénées to try to make a serious move. The race moves there in the middle of the final week.

Stage 16 ends with a descent off the Col de Peyresourde that favors Nibali’s downhill prowess, while stage 17 features a challenging final 50km, packed with three climbs and two technical descents to put Wiggins and Froome under pressure. The Peyragudes summit finish is new to the Tour and follows the race’s second ascent of the Peyresourde.

In fact, Nibali and Evans could become natural allies on the road. Both have strong teams and both have shared interests of unsettling Sky’s stranglehold on the GC.

Evans needs to get rid of Wiggins and Nibali needs to push past Froome if he hopes to earn his first-ever Tour podium.

Nibali can count on the help of Ivan Basso and Sylvester Szmyd, while Evans can lean on Steve Cummings, Amael Moinard and a resurgent Tejay van Garderen, who punched back into the top 10 with a great TT on Monday. But both team leaders were isolated under Sky’s pressure on the race’s first summit finish, at La Planche des Belles Filles.

With only two summit finishes remaining between Wednesday’s push into the Alps and Paris, Nibali knows he has to make the most of favorable terrain.

“At the Tour, you have to search for the right moment,” Nibali said. “It’s not like Lombardia or Liège, when you can blindly attack with no thought of the consequences. Here, you have to be more calculating.”

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