Carcassonne, France • Barring a disaster for him on French roads from now until Sunday, the man who looks set to win the Tour de France says he understands that cycling is still paying for its longtime doping plague.
Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali knows that more than many. Both of cycling’s other "Grand Tours" that he has already won were marred by doping cases. Last year’s Giro d’Italia was tarnished by three positive tests while in the 2010 Vuelta, Nibali’s runner-up, Ezequiel Mosquera, later tested positive for a masking agent that can hide blood-booster EPO — a longtime designer drug in cycling.
Tour de France Stage 16 preview
O Tuesday, 6 a.m.
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1. Vincenzo Nibali, Italy, 66 hours, 49 minutes, 37 seconds.
2. Alejandro Valverde, Spain, 4 minutes, 37 seconds behind.
3. Romain Bardet, France, 4:50.
4. Thibaut Pinot, France, 5:06.
5. Tejay van Garderen, United States, 5:49.
But on the rest day Monday before the pack heads to the Pyrenees, the serene, talented and methodical 29-year-old Italian was focusing on the race, saying that he wants to make sure he avoids a "crisis" like the crashes that forced out rivals Chris Froome, the 2013 champ, and two-time winner Alberto Contador. In post-stage news conferences, he has confidently fielded and answered questions about doping.
"Unfortunately, those questions arise because we’re paying [for] the past years. I try to answer in the most correct way, like I already did at the Giro last year," Nibali said after Sunday’s Stage 15. "I’m here to give the best answers I can and clarify everything about myself."
"I’ve always been a flag bearer of anti-doping."
As the race embarks Tuesday for three days in the Pyrenees mountains, Nibali leads Alejandro Valverde — a 34-year-old Spaniard who once served a two-year ban after being implicated in a blood-doping ring — by 4 minutes, 37 seconds. Romain Bardet is third, 4:50 back, and fellow Frenchman Thibaut Pinot is fourth: 5:06 behind. American Tejay van Garderen is fifth, 5:49 behind.
A few components go into the calculation to understand those gaps, after more than 66 hours of total racing since the Tour’s start in Yorkshire, England on July 5.
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