Nibali in company of greats

Vincenzo Nibali completed victory in the 101st Tour de France in Paris yesterday as Marcel Kittel won the final stage on the Champs-Elysees-

Nibali in company of greats

Nibali, from Italy, is now one of just six riders to have won all three of cycling’s Grand Tours but the 29-year old is already looking ahead to his next goal.

“After winning the Vuelta, the Giro and the Tour, I’ll keep focusing on Grand Tours but I’d also like to crown it all with a [world champion’s] rainbow jersey one year,” said Nibali, who does not believe this September’s circuit in Ponferrada, Spain suits him.

Nibali (Astana) wore the fabled maillot jaune for 18 of the Tour’s 21 race days, having first taken the race lead on day two in Sheffield with the first of his four stage victories.

He is the first Italian winner of the Tour since Marco Pantani in 1998.

“It’s very difficult to make a comparison between Pantani’s victory and my victory, because Marco won his in the last week, two days before the end,” Nibali said.

“For me it’s the contrary — I had the yellow jersey on my back after two days.”

A dominant showing saw Nibali (Astana) triumph by seven minutes, 52 seconds to join Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Alberto Contador as riders with the set of Grand Tour wins.

Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) finished second and third to ensure there were two Frenchmen on the Tour podium for the first time since 1984, when Laurent Fignon won ahead of Hinault.

Who knows how Nibali would have fared had misfortune and injury not struck 2013 winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) and two-time champion Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), both of whom abandoned with broken bones.

But there is no doubt Nibali has been the race’s dominant rider, winning across four mountain ranges.

He is already looking towards the 2015 Tour, with Froome, Contador and 2014 Giro winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) likely to start in Utrecht.

Nibali won in Sheffield, La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges, Chamrousse in the Alps and Hautacam in the Pyrenees, but the greatest time he took out of his rivals was on the cobbled fifth stage in northern France.

On the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees yesterday, Peraud crashed as the racing began and had to fight to return to the peloton.

Richie Porte (Team Sky) made a forlorn attempt to break away on the finishing circuit yesterday, but a bunch sprint was inevitable in the unofficial sprinters’ World Championships and the Australian was caught entering the final lap.

Kittel, winner of three of the first four stages of the race, claimed his fourth triumph to equal his haul of 12 months ago and bookend the race with victories.

There was a battle between Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Giant-Shimano into the final kilometre, when Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) tried to infiltrate the sprint trains.

Kristoff was ahead, but Kittel reeled in his rival to win by half a bike length and celebrate victory. The Norwegian was second and Navardauskas third as Nibali finished safely in 81st place.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Nicolas Roche also arrived home safely in the main pack and was 36th overall at 1:58:45.

The Tinkoff-Saxo man had a mixed three weeks, with some very good climbing displays and top-10 finishes pockmarked by days where he lost significant time, though it must be said that was often as a result of working for his team-mates, of whom two claimed three stage wins between them.

Five things you didn’t know about Vincenzo Nibali

1. He was born in Sicily in 1984 and turned professional for a team in Italy called Fassa-Bartolo when he was only 19. That came on the back of a third place finish at the 2002 Junior World Time Trial Championships and third at the 2004 U23 World Time Trial Championship.

2. He joined the Astana team in 2013 because they allowed him to be the team’s sole leader, and were willing to put the whole team behind him in order to win this year’s Tour de France, where he started as third favourite behind Alberto Contador and Chris Froome.

3. He has completed nine Grand Tours since 2009 and his worst result has been seventh overall (Vuelta A Espana, 2011).

4. He has now joined an illustrious list of just six riders to have won each of cycling’s Grand Tours, the Vuelta A Espana, the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. The others are Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Alberto Contador.

5. He is known as one of the most humble and likeable riders in the peloton and last year after he won the Giro d’Italia he gave his winning jersey to his mother.

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