GAP, France (AP) The Latest from Stage 16 of the Tour de France (all times local):
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Driven to unpublishable expletives, Dutch rider Bauke Mollema says it’s ”not fair” that race leader Chris Froome is having his riding successes questioned by some cycling fans.
Given the sport’s high-profile doping cases in previous years, Mollema said after Monday’s 16th stage that: ”Nowadays in cycling, when you ride fast, and you win, some people say that it can’t be true or it’s not possible.”
Froome has never tested positive and insists he’s riding clean. Mollema says the Briton is paying the price for cycling’s past – when doping was widespread.
Despite the intense pressure that yellow jersey bearers often face, the Trek Factory Racing leader, who is ninth, still wouldn’t mind wearing it himself.
”I would love to have it, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in this Tour,” he said with a smile.
Defending Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali made the most of his skill at going both up and down hill to trim nearly a half minute from his deficit to race leader Chris Froome.
About a kilometer (half-mile) from the top of the final mid-grade climb in Monday’s 16th stage, the Sicilian used his racing savvy to speed ahead of Froome, and was leading him by 13 seconds at the top.
Nibali doubled his advantage on the way down. Many riders suspect that if Froome has any vulnerability, it’s that he’s more likely to lose time going downhill than up.
By erasing 26 seconds from his deficit, Nibali now trails Froome by 7 minutes, 49 seconds – still eighth overall.
”I wanted to try. I attacked and it went well,” Nibali said.
Spain’s Ruben Plaza Molina has won the 16th stage of the Tour de France by distancing a breakaway group in a final climb and holding them off on a long downhill to the finish line.
Trailing nearly 20 minutes behind in the pack, Chris Froome was likely to retain the yellow jersey because the highest-placed rider in the breakaway bunch started the day 34 minutes behind the British race leader.
Plaza, 35, left behind his fellow breakaway riders up the mid-grade Manse pass and held them off on a 12-kilometer (7-mile) descent to the finish.
Riders will now get their second and final rest day after Monday’s 201-kilometer (125-mile) ride from Bourg de Peage to Gap. The race ends Sunday in Paris
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme spoke with the director of sports at France Televisions and discussed on-air commentary that can have a negative impact on ”some simple minds on the side of the roads.”
Prudhomme spoke Monday to The Associated Press about an incident which occurred on Saturday’s 14th stage, in which Tour leader Chris Froome was splashed with urine by a spectator who yelled ”Doper!”
Froome, who has never tested positive for doping, has said that ”if people are led to believe” that cycling performances aren’t legitimate, it can influence spectators’ behavior. He hasn’t specified which commentator he had in mind.
Prudhomme said he and France Television’s sports director Daniel Bilalian spoke Sunday about how on-air commentary ”counts” and ”can even have an extremely harmful influence, and can even be potentially dangerous.”
Bilalian ”spoke with his troops,” according to Prudhomme.
The boss of cycling is giving only lukewarm support to an idea from Chris Froome’s Team Sky and others to independently scrutinize riders’ performances for hints of doping.
Sky manager Dave Brailsford has proposed that all teams could release their data showing how much power riders produce and other performance indicators. Brailsford suggested the data could be given to experts working for cycling’s governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI), for them to look for any abnormalities.
But UCI president, Brian Cookson, says: ”I don’t want to make a knee-jerk reaction to any proposal like that at the moment.”
Speaking to The Associated Press on Stage 16 of the Tour, he said: ”We can look at all of these ideas” but stressed that cycling already has ”the best possible anti-doping procedures and processes of any professional sport.”
He added: ”The teams can release what information they think is appropriate, that is not a matter for us.”
-By John Leicester in Gap.
It’s baby before bike for Greg van Avermaet.
The BMC team rider has left the Tour early after his pregnant wife called him back.
The Belgian did not start Stage 16 on Monday.
He says his wife was ”a little bit afraid” that their child will be born earlier than expected.
-By John Leicester in Gap.
Stage 16 of the Tour de France has begun with the foothills of the Alps tailor-made for punchy, lower-placed riders to take a win before the podium contenders do battle in the big mountains.
The 201-kilometer (125-mile) ride on Monday from Bourg de Peage on the banks of the Isere river has two moderate mountain climbs that should still be tough enough to rule out heavier sprinters for the stage win in Gap.
Race leader Chris Froome and the other riders are again facing brutal, draining heat into the 30s Celsius (90s Fahrenheit).
They get their second rest day Tuesday before four days of climbing in the Alps. Those mountains will be the last opportunity for Froome’s rivals to eat into the 2013 champion’s comfortable lead before he targets a second Tour title in Paris on Sunday.