Vincenzo Nibali has been the stand out man so far during the Tour de France but can anyone attempt to take the yellow jersey off his shoulders now the race enters the high mountain stages?
Nibali has already won three stages of the Tour de France this year, the latest being stage 13 on Friday, after he broke clear on the summit finish at Chamrousse.
Alejandro Valverde finished 50 seconds behind him in fourth place to finish the highest out of the main general classification riders. Richie Porte struggled in the heat and is no longer in the top 10.
So with the race continuing in the Alps, can anyone get close to Nibali's yellow jersey? I don't think they can.
There are plenty of riders in the race who are better climbers than the Italian but they are to far down in the overall standings to make any kind of difference. The current wearer of the King of the Mountains jersey, Joaquim Rodriguez, is one of these riders but Nibali will not be worried by him winning any stages as he is so far in front of him overall.
Valverde best placed?
The best placed rider to take time off Nibali in the mountains is Valverde. The Spaniard is just over three and a half minutes behind the yellow jersey but has the potential to eat into Nibali's overall lead.
Tejay Van Garderen is also a very good climber and with the absence of Cadel Evans it will be down to him to try to get the yellow jersey for BMC. Unfortunately for him though he is over five minutes behind Nibali and it is unlikely he will make up this time unless the Italian crashes.
Nibali will be very wary of attacks in the coming days and will probably position his team at the front of the race so that they can control the pace so it suits them.
For cycling fans it is a shame that race favourites such as Alberto Contador and Chris Froome had to pull out of the event because they would have challenged Nibali during these mountain stages and in my opinion would have been way to strong for him.
Team Sky's new leader Richie Porte will focus on individual stage wins after losing almost nine minutes to Nibali during stage 13, a result which means his chances of finishing on the podium in Paris are very slim.
For me Nibali should dominate the mountain stages and the rest of the Tour de France.
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