• Nibali now strong favorite to win Tour de France
     | July 16,2014

    Overall leader Vincenzo Nibali of Italy pedals during a training near Besancon, eastern France, Tuesday.

    BESANCON, France — With defending champion Chris Froome and two-time winner Alberto Contador out of the race, Vincenzo Nibali’s path is wide open to become the first Italian to win the Tour de France since the late Marco Pantani in 1998.

    The French have waited even longer for a champion — the last was Bernard Hinault way back in 1985 — but with three riders in the top six places, hopes are growing of at least a first podium place since climber Richard Virenque finished second in 1997.

    Following Tuesday’s rest day, the race resumes with Stage 11 on Wednesday, followed by arduous mountain stages on Friday and Saturday which will reveal the genuine contenders.

    These are where Niabli’s climbing skills could set him apart, and give him a chance to fully stamp his authority on the race.

    Contador looks to Vuelta after Tour exit

    MADRID — Former Tour de France champion Alberto Contador arrived in Madrid on Tuesday to treat his injured right leg in a bid to race the Spanish Vuelta.

    Contador, a two-time winner of cycling’s biggest race, broke his shin in a violent fall on Monday to leave the Tour at the 10th stage.

    Contador was still grappling with his early exit, saying “I couldn’t sleep last night thinking this situation wasn’t real but, when I opened my eyes, I could see it was.”

    The 31-year-old Spaniard immediately went to a local hospital upon arrival to see a doctor specializing in such injuries.

    Contador showed intent but also skepticism that he could heal in time for the Aug. 23 Vuelta, with surgery still a possibility for the Tinkoff-Saxo Bank rider.

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