Sky left licking wounds as Nibali seizes control

Stage winner, overall leader and best climber Vincenzo Nibali gestures as he walks onto the podium for the third ceremony after the thirteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 197.5 kilometers (122.7 miles) with start in Saint-Etienne and finish in Chamrousse, France, Friday, July 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Stage winner, overall leader and best climber Vincenzo Nibali gestures as he walks onto the podium for the third ceremony after the thirteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 197.5 kilometers (122.7 miles) with start in Saint-Etienne and finish in Chamrousse, France, Friday, July 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

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Vincenzo Nibali is refusing to take anything for granted despite seizing control of this year’s Tour de France with his third stage victory yesterday.

The Team Astana rider stretched his lead at the top of the standings to three minutes 37 seconds after powering away from his rivals in the final phase of the hors categorie climb to Chamrousse.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) moved up to second place on what proved a dismal day for Richie Porte, with the Team Sky leader trailing in over nine minutes behind the leader and slumping to 16th place overall – having started the day second.

Nibali cemented his dominance in style as he gave chase to leading pair Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Leopold Konig (Netapp-Endura) with 10km to go before bursting clear.

Majka claimed second place ahead of Konig, with Valverde 50 seconds down in fourth place.

Nibali, who also assumed the polka dot jersey from Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), said: “For the coming days, I only know that I have to remain quiet – there are still many mountains ahead.

“I’ve suffered a lot because of the heat.

“At least as we were climbing, I felt better and better.

“My intention was just to control in the final climb but when I saw Richie Porte in trouble my goal became to gain important seconds on Valverde.”

Porte – promoted to Team Sky’s principle rider following the retirement of Chris Froome – dramatically dropped off on a day which saw him fall out of contention 11 minutes 11 seconds behind Nibali overall.

Sky team principal Sir Dave Brailsford conceded hopes of making it three wins in a row are over. He said: “We’ve had plenty of good days in the Tour de France over the last couple of years and (yesterday) wasn’t one of them.

“We’ll take stock and see if we can get into a situation where we can animate the race – there’s no point us just coming here and riding round. We’ve got to take the blows – it’s not easy, it’s disappointing – and think about the coming days in the mountains and what opportunities we’ve got to do other things in the race.”

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