PLANCHER-LES-MINES, France (AP) Italian Vincenzo Nibali mastered a tough day of climbing to win the 10th stage and reclaim the Tour de France leader’s yellow jersey in the Vosges mountains on Monday.
Others struggled up and down the seven climbs, with two-time champion Alberto Contador having to abandon the race after crashing on a tricky downhill section. But Nibali kept his cool to move more than two minutes clear of his rivals in the overall standings.
Here are five things to know about the Tour de France on Monday:
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GALLOPIN … TO A HALT
Riding in the leader’s yellow jersey on Bastille Day – France’s national day – should have been so special for Frenchman Tony Gallopin. Instead, it turned into a nightmare.
Physically drained from his previous day’s efforts in taking the overall lead, Gallopin cracked and each of stage 10’s seven climbs became more and more daunting.
”I don’t recall ever suffering like that on a bike before. On days like this, it goes beyond suffering,” said an exhausted Gallopin after crossing the finish line, slumped over his bike. ”Honestly, I couldn’t make the most of it.”
Try as he might, the 26-year-old Gallopin finished nearly five minutes behind Nibali, who reclaimed the yellow jersey he’d lost to Gallopin the day before.
”I tried to hold on. You have to respect the yellow jersey, I couldn’t give up,” Gallopin said. ”I gave everything I had but the climbs were so tough right from the start. It was four hours of suffering.”
When Thomas Voeckler saw Gallopin struggling up the day’s punishing final climb – up to La Planche des Belles Filles ski resort – he knew exactly how he felt and tried to motivate him.
”I remember in 2004 I had been dropped a bit on the climb up to Tourmalet and Richard Virenque pushed me to keep going,” Voeckler said. ”It’s no big deal. A bit of a helping hand can boost your morale.”
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme hopes that the biological passport used by the International Cycling Union to help catch doping cheats will work faster in the future.
Over the weekend, the UCI said Denis Menchov, a now-retired Russian rider who won the Spanish Vuelta and the Italian Giro, was banned for two years and stripped of his results in three Tour de France races since 2009 – including his second-place finish in 2010 – for anomalies in his passport during the French races.
The passport program monitors an athlete’s blood profile over time to look for any signs of doping.
Speaking to The Associated Press before Monday’s 10th stage, Prudhomme said five years was too long to wait for the passport to turn up a doping violation.
”It would suit me if it could be shorter,” said Prudhomme, who would not elaborate much on Menchov’s sanction. ”It’s the past, cycling has changed … that’s my response, OK?”
STEEPED IN LEGEND
Monday’s 10th stage ended with a punishing uphill ascent to La Planche des Belles Filles ski station – only the second time the Tour has been there in its long history spanning 101 editions.
The ski resort’s name is steeped in morose legend.
According to the legend, centuries ago a group of beautiful young French women – the ”belles filles” – committed mass suicide in a lake to escape the looming clutches of Swedish invaders.
However, the leader of the Nordic horde had fallen in love with one of the women, and pulled out her lifeless body – carving a wooden epitaph in her honor.
American rider Andrew Talansky entered this year’s race with high hopes of challenging for a podium place after finishing 10th in his maiden Tour last year.
After Monday’s 10th stage, however, those expectations are all but dashed.
The 25-year-old Talansky is down in 26th place overall, nearly 15 minutes off the lead and about 12 minutes behind third-placed Alejandro Valverde.
Talansky, who rides for Garmin-Sharp, finished stage 10 way down in 48th place – more than 10 minutes behind Nibali.
His performance has doubtless been hindered by crashes in successive stages last week.
”The effects of two crashes in two days took their toll today, but tomorrow is the rest day,” the team’s sporting director Charly Wegelius said. ”There is a lot of racing still to be done.”
The injuries piled up on Monday as riders dealt with wet conditions and fog making for treacherous descents after the day’s many climbs.
Contador was the biggest casualty with a fractured shinbone, a bruised elbow and thick streams of blood pouring from his right knee.
British rider Geraint Thomas had serious bruising and cuts to his left elbow, while Italian Michele Scarponi sustained multiple cuts and bruises after hitting a crash barrier and flying off his bike and landing on a spectator who was unhurt.
Portuguese rider Tiago Machado had cuts and bruises to his left elbow after falling on a tricky descent.
Those three were able to continue, while Contador was not so fortunate and had to abandon the race.
Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten in Plancher-les-Mines contributed to this report.