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Nibali shows bite to claim yellow
Vincenzo Nibali bared his teeth and savoured a first Tour de France stage win of his career on another memorable day of racing in Yorkshire.
Italian Nibali, nicknamed the Shark, won the 201-kilometre second stage from York to Sheffield, launching an attack following the brutal climb of Jenkin Road 5km from the finish, and seized the yellow jersey in the process.
The Astana rider - third behind Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in the 2012 Tour and winner of the 2013 Giro d'Italia - has a long-term goal.
Le Tour Yorkshire is now complete - Tour director Christian Prudhomme estimated there were five million spectators over two days - and with 19 stages still to race Nibali knows there is plenty of drama to come.
"My main goal is to get a good result at the end of the Tour de France," said Nibali, who has now led all three Grand Tours.
"I don't want to lose my head. The Tour is a very hard race.
"I'm superstitious so I don't want to say that I'll win the overall.
"We have almost three weeks to go. For sure the Tour de France doesn't finish here.
"(But) I'm delighted to get the yellow jersey after having won the red jersey at the Vuelta a Espana and the pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia."
The second day began at York Racecourse with Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) announcing his withdrawal following his crash in Harrogate.
The Manxman would not have relished a day as challenging as this, with nine categorised climbs to negotiate - five in the final 60km - and numerous more ascents in between.
His sprint rival Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) endured a brief and torrid stay in the maillot jaune after winning stage one, finishing almost 20 minutes behind Nibali.
Kittel knew his chances of retaining the lead were remote and slipped out of the back of a rampaging peloton on Holme Moss with 60km to go, when the day's seven-man escape was swept up.
The German will chase a sixth Tour stage win in two editions in Monday's 155km third stage from Cambridge to The Mall in London, but Sunday's stage belonged to Nibali after the overall contenders had engaged in games up Jenkin Road.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) had not travelled to Sheffield prior to the Tour to view the stage, but took to the front up the day's final climb.
The Spaniard was unchallenged until, within sight of the summit, defending champion Froome (Team Sky) stretched his legs in a bid for a clear view on the technical run-in.
Numerous attempts to break off the front floundered until Nibali burst away inside the final 2km.
The Italian champion led by 100m under the flamme rouge at 1km to go and his rivals looked to each other to react.
World champion Rui Costa (Lampre) led the pursuit, with Froome on his wheel, but the lack of a coordinated chase ensured Nibali would win and he was able to celebrate a first Tour stage win of his career.
Belgian Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) was second, two seconds behind, with Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) third.
Contador was 13th and Froome 19th, the Briton moving to fifth overall after his sixth-placed finish in Harrogate on day one.
There was a puncture on the approach to Holme Moss for Froome's chief lieutenant Richie Porte, but the Australian was brought back to the peloton by two Team Sky colleagues and finished two places behind Froome.
"This is wonderful victory," Nibali added.
"This is a huge satisfaction. It was a very nervous race with a lot of spectators.
"I found the right time to escape. They watched each other behind, but I was scared to get caught because of the head wind.
"This victory's very important for me, for Italy and for the team."
Contador made his move on the climb to gauge his condition.
"Today was a day to test my strength rather than to really make an all-out attack; there wasn't the terrain for that," the two-time winner said.
"I wanted to be in a good position, too, because it was a risky day, there were thousands and thousands of people.
"I'm just very thankful to have got through, it was an extremely nervous stage with so many spectators."