Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) says the final few hundred metres to the summit finish of stage 20 of the 2019 Tour de France felt “never ending.”
The Italian went solo from the day’s breakaway with just 13km to go on the shortened 59km stage, holding off the chasing GC contenders behind to take victory, with race leader Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) finishing safely to seal the overall win.
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The stage consisted of just 26km of flat before the start of the 33km climb to the ski resort of Val Thorens, with Nibali making it into the early break as he looked for a stage victory to make his Tour a success.
The 34-year-old, one of the most decorated riders in the current peloton, hasn’t won since his 2018 Milan-San Remo victory. He took second overall at the Giro d’Italia in June, but a GC bid at the Tour faltered early in the first week.
He went out in numerous breakaways through the mountain stages in the Pyrenees and the Alps, at one point trying to compete for the king of the mountains jersey as well as take a stage win. On stage 20 though he finally succeeded, finishing 10 seconds ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) as the GC group quickly gained on him as he fought to stay ahead in the steep final kilometre to the line.
“It’s been a feeling of liberation when I crossed the line because the last few hundred meters felt like never ending,” Nibali said.
“My only way to make it was to attack from far out. With the advantage we had at the bottom of the climb, I believed I could make it.
“I hadn’t won since last year. It’s a nice revenge.”
Overall winner of the 2014 Tour de France, the victory is Nibali’s first win in the race since stage 19 of the 2015 edition and his sixth stage victory in total.
The win is Bahrain-Merida’s second of this Tour after Dylan Teuns won on La Planche des Belles Filles on stage six, making the one of only eight teams to take a stage win ahead of the final day in Paris on Sunday.