Vincenzo Nibali continues to remove all doubt he's the man to beat at the 2014 Tour de France as he won Stage 13 on Friday, his third stage win of this Tour to extend his lead on the Yellow Jersey.
The stage was the first of two days in the French Alps and included a punishing final climb that extended 12 miles up to the city of Grenoble, a climb that continued to separate the field with each and every attack up the mountain.
Because of the initial breakaway attack of Alessandro de Marchi, the pace was high as the peloton raced to reel him in. With that high tempo the field began cracking and separating to the point that around 20 or so riders were in the peloton group at the bottom of the climb, with Nibali, chasing the leader. They didn't take long to catch de Marchi and it didn't take long for some riders to drop off the pace either.
That included Australian Richie Porte, who tumbled down the standings where he began the day in second place behind Nibali. He ended up losing nearly nine minutes as his legs just couldn't churn up the mountain and fell out of the top 10.
As the riders continued to fall behind with increased attacks and accelerations, Nibali's group was whittled down to just four riders including Alejando Valverde and Thibaut Pinot when Nibali made a surprising attack to chase down the two riders (Rafal Majka and Leo König) who broke away with their unanswered attack on the climb. Nibali rather easily chased them down and from there Nibali just kept up his tempo and rode away to a big victory, 50 seconds ahead of Valverde and Pinaut.
It's not too common to see such an attack from the Tour leader but Nibali has shown to be in remarkable form and saw a chance to add even more time on his lead. It's becoming clearer by the day that everybody is riding for second place behind Nibali in this race.
Coincidentally, Nibali also took the lead as the King of the Mountains from Joaquim Rodriguez but the Spaniard will continue to wear the Polka Dot jersey as Nibali has a different color to sport.
One of the better rides of the day belonged to American Tejay van Garderen. He was able to ride with the Yellow Jersey for much of the climb and ended up crossing the finish line in sixth place on the stage, bumping him up the standings a little more and into the top five.
Here is how the top 10 shakes out after another defining stage of this year's Tour.
1. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA)
2. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) +3:37
3. Romain Bardet (FRA) +4:24
4. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) +4:40
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) +5:19
6. Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA) +6:06
7. Bauke Mollema (NED) +6:17
8. Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL) +6:27
9. Rui Costa (POR) +8:35
10. Leopold Konig (CZE) +8:36
Photo(s) of the day
Ah, the mountains in the Tour de France, where the crazies come out.
The riders aren't done with the Alps yet, Friday's 12-mile final climb was almost a teaser for what lies ahead on Saturday.
Starting in Grenoble after a hilltop finish on Friday, the riders will begin climbing right away on Saturday, albeit a little slowly at first. But the 177 kilometer Stage 14 is pretty much three long climbs with two being Category 1 climbs, including the final climb to another hilltop finish in Risoul, and one HC climb (beyond classification). It should be yet another day of attacks and movement in the top over the overall standings.