Tempers flare as Tour de France ends 10th stage

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Tempers flare as Tour de France ends 10th stage

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Thomas Voeckler of France crosses the finish line Wednesday to win the 10th stage of the Tour de France. [AP/YONHAP]

BELLEGARDE-SUR-VALSERINE, France - Tour de France contender Vincenzo Nibali has taken a swipe at race leader Bradley Wiggins, accusing the Englishman of showing a lack of respect at the end of the 10th stage Wednesday.

Nibali started the first of three days in the Alps 2 minutes and 23 seconds behind the yellow jersey holder and went on the attack on a long descent.

The Italian, a former Tour of Spain winner, was eventually brought to heel thanks to the hard-driving pace of Wiggins’ Sky team before the final, short climb of the 194.5 km (120.9 mile) stage from Macon.

After they finished the race in the same group over three minutes behind French stage winner Thomas Voeckler of Europcar, Nibali was incensed, claiming Wiggins stared at him in a disrespectful manner and made a rude gesture with his hand.

Admitting Sky is “really strong at the moment,” Nibali said, “He should show more respect for his competitors.”

Despite his current position in the race, Wiggins has yet to win one of cycling’s Grand Tours, while Nibali won the Tour of Spain in 2010 and was third in the Giro d’Italia last season.

Wiggins finished fourth overall on the Tour de France in 2009, flopped outside the top 20 in 2010 and crashed out of the race on stage seven in 2011.

Months after that setback, he finished third at the Tour of Spain, where he was just getting over the fractured collarbone he sustained at the Tour.

Posts on Twitter compared Sky’s impressive displays of fast pace-setting to the U.S. Postal team of Lance Armstrong, the seven-time champion who was recently charged with being part of a major doping conspiracy.

But Wiggins, a three-time Olympic track champion, said the doubts about him and his team are wide of the mark.

“I don’t feel that I should have to sit here and justify everything I’ve done to the world,” he said. “I’m not just some rider who’s come from nowhere.”

Nibali’s key helper, Italian teammate Ivan Basso, said they were struggling to find a way around Sky.

“Wiggins and Sky remind me of the years when Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong were on the Tour,” Basso said.

“They are so strong that it’s always difficult to attack. You can gain 500 meters, but they always catch you at the end.”

Wiggins says he underestimates no one in the race and admits that he can have one bad day and his dream could be over.

For the remainder, Nibali says the Englishman should be more humble. “In cycling, fortunes can change quickly, for everyone,” said Nibali. “He’s a good rider, but I’m talking about respect, about tradition. In cycling, riders have always shown a great respect toward each other. We are not footballers.” AFP
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