Vincenzo Nibali time trialled through the land of wine, truffles and fois gras to secure his Tour de France win on Saturday in Périgueux. The Italian must only take a flight from western France to Paris and complete the final parade stage up the Champs-Élysées to make the result official.
“I didn’t think to put my name in the history just by winning the Tour, but in the big classics, by winning the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia,” Nibali told a packed pressroom.
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“The Vuelta showed me what I was able to do in the grand tours in the following years, then as an Italian, the Giro was very important because I was there in front of the Italian public. But to win the Tour… that’s much larger. There’s so much more international attention on this race.”
With a time of 1 hour, 8 minutes and 19 seconds over 54 kilometres, team Astana’s Nibali placed fourth on the time trial stage and held his yellow jersey with sizable 7-52 minutes on Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale).
Nibali, 29, becomes the first Sicilian to win the Tour de France and one of only six Italians to win the race in 101 years. He follows the footsteps of Ottavio Bottecchia (1924, 1925), Gino Bartali (1938, 1948), Fausto Coppi (1949, 1952), Gastone Nencini (1960), Felice Gimondi (1965) and Marco Pantani (1998).
He also becomes one of six riders who have won all three grand tours, including the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, in their careers. The group includes Gimondi and only one other current rider, Alberto Contador.
Contador and 2013 winner Chris Froome (Sky) were among the favourites who crashed and abandoned the race. Froome crashed three times before abandoning in the fifth stage and Contador fell, broke his tibia and pulled out of the 10th stage.
“The Tour this year was a big show, very different from the editions I raced in the past. It seemed made to measure for me with hard climbs and a hard last week,” said Nibali.
“Yeah, for sure I want the big riders here next year, and why not Bradley Wiggins? I heard he’s racing on the track, but I still see him as a big name. I’d like to take them all on next year.”
‘The Shark’ won four stages, including Thursday to Hautacam and maybe without returning champions to stop him, built a massive lead. Part of that lead came thanks to his team’s domination over wet and muddy cobblestones in northern France. The rest came to defending in stages and winning on the days to Sheffield, La Planche des Belles Filles, Chamrousse and Hautacam.
France made its mark behind Nibali. For the first time since 1984, two Frenchmen will stand on the final podium when the race ends in Paris. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) placed second at 7-52 and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) third overall at 8-24 minutes.
French riders Jean-Christophe Peraud and Thibaut Pinot occupy second and third overall after final time trial
Vincenzo Nibali extends overall lead further as Jean-Christophe Peraud moves up to second on GC
Images from the penultimate stage of the 2014 Tour de France, the race's only time trial stage. Photos by Graham