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Nibali now strong favorite to win Tour de France

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BESANCON, France — With defending champion Chris Froome and two-time winner Alberto Contador out of the race, Vincenzo Nibali’s path is wide open to become the first Italian to win the Tour de France since the late Marco Pantani in 1998.

The French have waited even longer for a champion — the last was Bernard Hinault way back in 1985 — but with three riders in the top six places, hopes are growing of at least a first podium place since climber Richard Virenque finished second in 1997.

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