Vincenzo Nibali

Vincenzo Nibali out of Tour de France

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ALPE D’HUEZ, France (AP) — With fans pressing too close to an elite group of riders at the conclusion of the 21 hairpin bends up to Alpe d’Huez, 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali crashed into a police motorbike and later withdrew from the race.

The Italian got back up and finished seventh in Thursday’s stage, then was taken to the local hospital for medical tests for a suspected back injury.

“The road became narrower and there were no barriers,” Nibali said. “There were two police motorbikes. When [Chris] Froome accelerated, I followed him, I was feeling good. Then we slowed down and I hit the ground.”

Nibali was diagnosed with a fractured vertebra and the Bahrain-Merida rider later tweeted that he was withdrawing from the Tour.

Nibali finished Thursday’s stage in fourth place, 2:37 back of leader Geraint Thomas, before withdrawing.

Nibali and Froome were the only past Tour winners in this year’s field.

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TOUR DE FRANCE: StandingsTV Schedule | Riders to Watch

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Ten riders to watch at Tour de France

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Ten riders to watch at the Tour de France, live on NBC Sports from July 7-29 (broadcast/streaming schedule here) … 

Chris Froome
Team Sky/Great Britain
2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 Tour de France winner

If there’s one storyline this year, it’s Froome’s bid to tie the Tour de France titles record amid at least a microscope and at most a drug-testing controversy. Jacques AnquetilEddy MerckxBernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain all won five. Lance Armstrong of course claimed seven, but they were all stripped. Froome’s history chase is clouded by a September doping test that revealed twice the legal limit of an asthma drug. Froome was cleared of wrongdoing by the International Cycling Union five days before the start of the Tour, but he is sure to be the target of (at least) verbal barbs from fans.

Nairo Quintana
Movistar/Colombia
2013, 2015 Tour de France runner-up

Once Froome’s biggest challenger and still may be. Quintana won the Giro d’Italia in 2014 and the Vuelta a España in 2016, the latter being the last time Froome was beaten in a Grand Tour. Quintana struggled to 12th at last year’s Tour de France, but that was after racing the Giro that spring. Quintana skipped the Giro this season, but matters are complicated by having two other GC riders on his team.

Richie Porte
BMC/Australia
Fifth place, 2016 Tour de France

Porte was Froome’s right-hand man in the mountains for his first two Tour titles. He moved to BMC in 2016 and was tapped by Froome last year as his biggest threat, but Porte crashed out of stage nine in the 2017 Tour. Porte returned to win the Tour de Suisse last month (Quintana was third; Froome was resting after winning the Giro). Team BMC, which also includes American Tejay van Garderen, faces an uncertain future without a title sponsor beyond this season.

Mikel Landa
Movistar/Spain
Fourth place, 2017 Tour de France

Landa succeeded Porte as the strongest non-Froome rider on Sky. He missed the podium by one second last year and certainly looked strong enough helping Froome in the mountains to be leading his own team. Landa’s move to Movistar for this season doesn’t necessarily boost his yellow-jersey hopes. He’s on a team with two other GC contenders — Quintana and Alejando Valverde.

Vincenzo Nibali
Bahrain–Merida/Italy
2014 Tour de France winner

The only man in the field with a Tour title other than Froome. Like Froome, Nibali has also won all three Grand Tours (seven men have done this in history). Nibali, who left Astana for Bahrain-Merida in 2017, has finished on the podium in 10 of his last 14 Grand Tours dating to 2010. But he was 30th in his last Tour de France in 2016 and unimpressive in spring races.

Tom Dumoulin
Sunweb/Netherlands
2017 Giro d’Italia winner

Dumoulin’s success can be separated into two pots — time trials and the Giro. He earned Olympic time trial silver in Rio (between Fabian Cancellara and Froome) and won the world title last year (ahead of bronze medalist Froome). He captured the Giro in 2017, becoming the first Dutch man to win a Grand Tour since 1980, and was runner-up to Froome in Italy this year. Dumoulin’s best Tour de France finish was 33rd, and this is his first time racing the Tour after completing the Giro.

Romain Bardet
AG2R La Mondiale/France
Tour de France runner-up (2016) and third place (2017)

At 27, the youngest rider on this list. Bardet is again tasked with trying to end France’s longest Tour victory drought, now dating 33 years since Hinault’s fifth and final title in 1985. Strong in the mountains, Bardet is known for struggling in time trials. He nearly squandered a place on the podium on a 14-mile time trial in the Tour’s penultimate stage last year, losing 72 seconds to Landa.

Rigoberto Uran
EF Education First–Drapac p/b Cannondale/Colombia
2017 Tour de France runner-up

The surprise of the 2017 Tour podium. Uran was best known for taking 2012 Olympic road race silver. He went into the 2017 Tour with a best previous finish of 24th, though he was runner-up at the Giro 2013 and 2014. Uran helped usher in a strong group of Colombian riders, but no South American has won the Tour de France. Uran, flying under the radar by his spring results, will again have help from American Taylor Phinney and, especially in the mountains, veteran Frenchman Pierre Rolland.

Peter Sagan
Bora–Hansgrohe/Slovakia
Eight Tour de France stage wins

The most magnetic figure in the sport returns after being wrongly disqualified for his clash with Mark Cavendish in the fourth stage last year. Sagan is nicknamed “The Terminator,” is known to pop wheelies at races and inhale gummy fruit candy after victories. And that happens often. Sagan has won three world road race titles and five Tour de France points classifications as the top sprinter. One more green jersey in Paris to match Erik Zabel‘s record.

Mark Cavendish
Dimension Data/Great Britain
30 Tour de France stage wins

Cavendish’s Tour ended after four stages last year, breaking his shoulder falling from that clash with Sagan. That meant he remained four stage wins shy of Merckx’s record. Time is running out. Cavendish is 33 years old and won five stages total from the last four Tours. It’s getting more and more difficult for the Manx Missile to outsprint Sagan and the other 20-somethings chasing the green jersey.

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MORE: Froome cleared to race Tour, doping case closed

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Vincenzo Nibali focuses on Olympics, not Tour de France, after Giro win

Vincenzo Nibali
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Vincenzo Nibali views the Tour de France in July as a “buildup” for the Rio Olympics in August, his main focus this summer, the Italian reportedly said after winning the Giro d’Italia on Sunday.

“The objective is to ride the Tour [de France] with a view to the Olympics,” Nibali said after his fourth Grand Tour title, according to CyclingNews.com. “Olympics are a very important event for me, and the Tour would definitely be a decisive part of the build-up.”

Trying to win the Giro and the Tour in the same year is a mountain of a task, given the short break between the two stage races. The double hasn’t been done since Nibali’s countryman, Marco Pantani, in 1998.

Nibali reportedly said he will ride this year’s Tour in a support role for Astana teammate and countryman Fabio Aru, the 2015 Vuelta a España winner who sat out this year’s Giro.

Nibali, 31, competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics with a top finish of 14th in the Beijing time trial.

In Rio, Nibali and Spain’s Alberto Contador can attempt to become the first cyclists to win all three Grand Tours and an Olympic gold medal.

Of the six riders to win all three Grand Tours, one owns an Olympic medal — Jacques Anquetil‘s bronze in the team road race at Helsinki 1952. Back then, Olympic cycling was for amateur riders. The team road race is no longer part of the Olympic program.

Anquetil earned his Olympic medal at age 18, five years before his first Grand Tour title.

MORE: Can Tour de France stars contend for Rio Olympic medals?