GERARDMER, France (AP) — Vincenzo Nibali of Italy defends his yellow jersey as riders begin the hilly ninth stage of the Tour de France on Sunday.
He holds a comfortable lead of 1 minute, 44 seconds over Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang heading into the 170-kilometer (105.4-mile) trek from Gerardmer to Mulhouse in the mid-sized Vosges mountain range near the German border. The route features mostly moderate climbs but includes a tough Category 1 ascent up Le Markstein near the end, before the stage concludes with a downhill finish.
Australian Richie Porte began stage 9 about two minutes off the lead in third place overall.
Nibali's biggest rival, two-time champion Alberto Contador of Spain, was 2:34 behind in sixth place, but showed his attacking intent on Saturday's eighth stage when he gained three seconds on Nibali.