Tour de France: Nibali poised to be crowned in Paris
Having dominated his rivals on all terrains, Vincenzo Nibali was poised to win the Tour de France as he avoided any late dramas on Saturday in the penultimate stage, a 54-kilometer time trial from Bergerac won by Germany’s Tony Martin.
The Italian finished fourth, nearly two minutes slower than the dominant Martin, who set a time of 1 hour, 6 minutes 21 seconds, but will roll into Paris today with a 7:52 lead.
France’s Jean-Christophe Peraud climbed to second overall ahead of compatriot Thibaut Pinot, as France is set to have two riders on the podium for the first time since Laurent Fignon and Bernard Hinault finished first and second, respectively, in 1984.
Nibali will become the sixth man to win all three grand tours barring a race-ending crash in today’s processional final stage, which ends on the Champs Elysees, and the first Italian since the late Marco Pantani in 1998.
“It was not an easy time trial, it required a lot of power,” said Astana rider Nibali, who has won four stages and has worn the yellow jersey for most of the race since snatching it on the second day in Sheffield.
“I never thought about that (becoming the first Italian to win since Pantani), I’m not sure I have realized it yet.”
FDJ.fr rider Pinot, who will also claim the white jersey for the best Under-25 rider ahead of compatriot Romain Bardet, is 8:24 off the pace.
“Near the end I was empty, the last five kilometres felt really long,” said Pinot. “I have not realized yet, I think it will sink in tomorrow.”
Peraud started the day in third place overall behind Pinot, but was stronger against the clock than his young compatriot and managed to beat him despite suffering a puncture shortly after the halfway point.
His AG2R-La Mondiale teammate Bardet also punctured 2 km from the line, losing fifth place overall to American Tejay van Garderen by two seconds.
Spain’s Alejandro Valverde, fourth in the standings, lacked the freshness required in a final grand tour time trial and was never a threat.
Poland’s Rafal Majka, who claimed two mountain stages, will take the polka dot jersey for the mountain classification, while Slovakian Peter Sagan will claim the green jersey for the points classification by a large margin.
Alessandro De Marchi of Italy was voted the most aggressive rider of the race by a panel of journalists and race officials, while AG2R-La Mondiale will win the team classification.
Nibali, who won the 2010 Vuelta and last year’s Giro d’Italia, has surrendered the yellow jersey only for one day since taking it as his main rivals crashed out.
Briton Chris Froome, the 2013 champion, abandoned on the fifth stage while Spain’s Alberto Contador, the 2007 and 2009 champion who had looked in ominous form coming into the race, also pulled out after a crash in the 10th stage.
Before Nibali, only Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, Italy’s Felice Gimondi, Belgian Eddy Merckx and Contador had won the Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta.