Peerless Nibali all but seals Tour with stage win

Thu Jul 24, 2014 12:25pm EDT
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By Julien Pretot

HAUTACAM France (Reuters) - Vincenzo Nibali proved once again he has no serious rivals in the Tour de France when he powered to victory in the final mountain stage on Thursday, all but securing his maiden title in impressive fashion.

The Italian, looking to become the sixth man to win all three grand tours, snatched his fourth stage win by easing away from the group of favorites early in the final ascent to Hautacam, a 13.6-km climb at an average gradient of 7.8 per cent.

France's Thibaut Pinot was second, 1:10 behind, and Poland's Rafal Majka finished third two seconds further back to secure the polka dot jersey for the mountain classification.

Pinot is now second overall, 7:10 behind Nibali with another Frenchman, Jean-Christophe Peraud, in third at 7:23 off the pace.

Spain's Alejandro Valverde could not respond to Pinot's attack and slipped to fourth overall, 7:25 behind Nibali.

"We worked to control the breakaway. I felt very well but I did not remember it was so hard in the final part of the climb," said Nibali.

"Vincenzo wanted to show he is the boss. He really wanted to in that stage. Congratulations to the whole team. He finished it off nicely," said team manager Alexandre Vinokourov.

Only a crash or a disaster in Saturday's final time trial can prevent Astana rider Nibali from adding to his 2010 Vuelta and 2013 Giro d'Italia titles.   Continued...

Race leader Astana team rider Vincenzo Nibali of Italy celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 145.5km 18th stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Hautacam, July 24, 2014.   REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier