Wiggins retains yellow jersey

18 July 2012 / 16:55

Tour de France leader and Team GB cyclist Bradley Wiggins retained the yellow jersey for a 10th day after surviving repeated attacks on stage 16 in the Pyrenees.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) began the day two minutes 23 seconds behind and accelerated away from Wiggins on the day's fourth and final climb, the Col de Peyresourde, the top of which came 15.5km from the end of the stage.

But Wiggins, with support from Team Sky colleague Chris Froome, kept the Italian within sight and reeled him in, and the trio finished 7mins 9secs behind stage winner Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).

Wiggins retained a 2:05 lead over Froome, with Nibali 18 seconds further adrift. The Italian appears to be the only realistic challenger to a Team Sky and British victory.

Defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) began the day 3:19 behind, but struggled going uphill and was cast adrift as Wiggins moved within four days of top spot on the Paris podium, with Thursday's 143.5km 17th stage from Bagneres-de-Luchon to the summit at Peyragudes the biggest obstacle to a first British Tour triumph.

Three BMC Racing team-mates had earlier dragged Evans back to the yellow jersey group on the descent and towards the lower slopes of the Col du Peyresourde, while up ahead Voeckler moved to go ahead on his own with 22km to go. The 9.5km ascent at an average of 6.7%, featured the route's steepest slopes and was ideal for an attack.

Evans again fell back from the yellow jersey group as Liquigas-Cannondale, Lotto-Belisol and Team Sky, with Froome and Richie Porte in support of Wiggins, vied for position at the front of the group.

Nibali accelerated out of the group inside 20km to go, but Froome paced Wiggins behind as they kept the Italian in sight, with the remaining challengers unable to keep pace. Froome and Wiggins bridged the gap as the trio pushed on towards the summit.

Nibali is known for his demon descending but did not attack on the downhill and finished alongside the Team Sky duo on a stage which saw Voeckler solo to victory. Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) was second, 1:40 behind and Gorka Izaguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) third, 3:22 adrift.

Evans finished 35th, 11:56 behind Voeckler and 4:47 adrift of Nibali, Wiggins and Froome, who were 11th, 12th and 13th, respectively. Evans fell to seventh in the general classification standings, 8:06 behind Wiggins.