BESANCON, France -- With defending champion Chris Froome and two-time winner Alberto Contador out of the race, the path is wide open for Vincenzo Nibali 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 in 1985 -- but with three riders in the top six places, hopes are growing of at least a first podium finish since climber Richard Virenque was second in 1997.

After Tuesday's rest day, the race resumes with Stage 11 on Wednesday, followed by arduous mountain stages on Friday and Saturday which will reveal the genuine contenders.

These are where Nibali's climbing skills could set him apart, and give him a chance to fully stamp his authority on the race.

There are five days of hard climbing ahead, starting with Friday's 122.4-mile trek from Saint-Etienne to Chamrousse, which ends with a huge ascent of 11.2 miles.

As for Nibali's rivals, Contador broke his shin in a violent fall in Monday's 10th stage and Froome pulled out in Stage 5 because of a broken wrist.

"I'm not happy about what happened to Alberto and Chris," said Nibali, 29. "The climbs would have been better and more spectacular for everyone."

Wednesday's stage is a 116.3-mile route in eastern France from Besancon to Oyonnax and features four small climbs.


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  • Contador arrived in Madrid on Tuesday to treat his injured leg in a bid to race the Spanish Vuelta. The two-time Tour de France winner, was still grappling with his early exit, saying "I couldn't sleep last night thinking this situation wasn't real but, when I opened my eyes, I could see it was."