La Toussuire: Reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali won the 19th stage of the Tour de France yesterday as Nairo Quintana clawed back time on race leader Chris Froome.
Italian Nibali went some way to rescuing what has been a difficult Tour defence by claiming a stunning solo victory on the 138km stage from Saint Jean de Maurienne to La Toussuire. Quintana took second on the stage at 44sec but finished 30sec ahead of third-placed Froome to reignite the yellow jersey battle.
Vincenzo Nibali celebrates as he crosses the finish line. Pic/AFP
Colombian Quintana is now 2min 38sec back from the Briton ahead of Saturday’s 20th stage finish on Alpe d’Huez. But it was the return of the ‘Shark of Messina’ that most animated an enthralling day in the Alps.
“It has been a very difficult year, the start of the Tour was difficult for me, I had some bad luck and wasn’t in the best shape,” said 30-year-old Nibali. “I only found my form at the end. This is a great victory, I’m delighted. The fans pushed me and motivated me, there were a lot of of Italians supporting me. This is a great win for me, for my family and for Italy.”
The 30sec gained still leaves Quintana with a huge task on today’s final Alpine stage but significantly it was the first time he managed to take time off Froome during the Tour. Nibali is now only 1min 19sec off a podium finish.