Tour ‘made to measure’ for Vincenzo Nibali

Germany’s Tony Martin easily won today’s 54km individual time trial from Bergerac

Sat, Jul 26, 2014, 20:01

Vincenzo Nibali believes the 101st Tour de France suited him perfectly.

Nibali (Astana), barring an astonishing and unprecedented turn of events, will win the 101st Tour’s yellow jersey on Sunday evening after taking a lead of seven minutes 52 seconds to Paris, where the final stage is traditionally a procession, before being contested by the sprinters on the Champs-Elysees.

The Italian, winner of the 2010 Vuelta a Espana and 2013 Giro d’Italia, will become the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours, after Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Alberto Contador. By the time he crosses the finish line in Paris, Nibali will have worn 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 his first of four stage victories.

“The Tour de France this year was a great race, very different from the other Tours we’ve had,” said Nibali, who relinquished the lead for one day before reclaiming it on stage 10. “It was almost made to measure for me. Quite difficult from the outset.”

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, third behind Bradley Wiggins and Froome in the 2012 Tour, said: “Yes, it will be a real battle. I’m really looking forward to the race next year.”

Other contenders could come from the host nation as two Frenchmen reached the podium for the first time in 30 years. As world time-trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won the 54-kilometre 20th stage from Bergerac to Perigueux in one hour 06 minutes 21 seconds, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) overcame a puncture to finish second ahead of third-placed Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).

Pinot, who is 24, began the day in second, 13 seconds ahead of the 37-year-old Peraud and 15 ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

The Spaniard never challenged for a podium spot as Peraud and Pinot ensured there would be two Frenchmen in the Tour’s top three for the first time since 1984, when Laurent Fignon won ahead of Hinault.

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