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Vincenzo Nibali isn't sitting on his laurels,...

Nibali: Sky will have to work a lot to keep yellow

Liquigas leader says Sky will have to work hard to defend yellow as he goes on the attack in the mountains

BESANÇON, France (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali is a marked man in this Tour de France. Today’s time trial in Besançon will give a true indicator of exactly what is possible, but overall leader Bradley Wiggins sees him as a threat.

Wiggins (Sky) said after his ride into the yellow jersey, “The Tour’s coming down to three riders: myself, Evans and Nibali.”

The Sicilian of Liquigas-Cannondale won the Vuelta a España two years ago. Last year, he placed second in the Giro d’Italia (after Alberto Contador’s DQ) and in his title defense, placed seventh in the Vuelta.

The grand tour experience has paid off. He was in the winning group of four two days ago to the summit finish in La Planche des Belles Filles, which prompted Wiggins’ comment.

“I just want to have a great race, then I’ll see how I place,” Nibali told VeloNews. “I’ve always had the goal of reaching the podium and to be there in the first three.”

Nibali said that he wouldn’t get complacent with his second or third place and would fight for the win even if the odds were against him. Last year, he continued to press Contador and tried to crack him at the Giro. He suffered more in the final stages as a result and slipped down a spot behind Michele Scarponi, who took over the title after a doping case stripped Contador of the win. Nibali would eventually finish second officially, but other than Contador, he was the animator of the race.

“Nothing’s written on the wall,” Nibali said. “There are certainly those stages where you can attack. Many of the other riders that are a little bit further behind will try to move themselves up in the classification, as well, like Jurgen Van den Broeck [Lotto-Belisol].”

Sky and Evans’ BMC Racing squad are watching each other, and keeping one eye on Nibali. They will be curious to see how he rides Monday’s 41.5km TT from Arc-et-Senans to Besançon. Over the rest day on Tuesday, they will talk about the coming mountain stages and how they will handle Nibali.

“He’s certainly come up from when we saw him racing in [the Tour of] California and some other places,” BMC’s general manager, Jim Ochowicz told VeloNews.

“He’s got a strong team. No doubt about it. We certainly consider him a contender. Don’t give up on him.”

Sky sports director, Sean Yates told VeloNews after the mountain stage to Belles Filles, “You know he’s a big rider. I wasn’t surprised.”

Yates’ Sky team at one point had four men leading a nine-man move: Michael Rogers, Richie Porte, Chris Froome with Wiggins. Evans had already waved good-bye to his last helper, Tejay van Garderen, and Nibali saw Ivan Basso and Sylvester Szmyd lose ground even earlier on.

“You know, I have a team that’s strong enough,” Nibali said. “It was a little difficult because we approached the climb at a high rhythm. Ivan suffered. On these types of climbs, he suffers. Szmyd, unfortunately, remained a little bit behind. I know that they are going very well and can help me.

“Team Sky rode an impressive rhythm. There was definitely a huge selection behind, many riders lost important seconds. It was still only the first mountain finish, which is always a bit unusual for a test. There are many stages to come… They have the yellow jersey now and they are going to have to work a lot if they want to keep it.”