Shark Nibali goes in for the kill in final mountain stage

Thu Jul 24, 2014 2:48pm EDT
 
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By Julien Pretot

HAUTACAM France (Reuters) - Nicknamed the 'Shark of Messina', Vincenzo Nibali once again showed his teeth to stamp his authority on the Tour de France and is now cruising towards his maiden title in the race.

The Italian became the first rider since the great Eddy Merckx in 1974 to win four stages (time trials excluded) in the same Tour by claiming the 18th stage at the top of the iconic Hautacam, draped in eerie fog.

Nibali powered away some 11 kilometers from the top of the 13.6-km ascent and never looked back to extend his overall lead to 7 minutes 10 seconds over France's Thibaut Pinot.

The Astana rider, who still looks fresh after almost three weeks of racing, is expected to extend his lead further in Saturday's 54-km time trial between Bergerac and Perigueux.

Should that happen, his winning margin could be the biggest since Laurent Fignon beat fellow Frenchman Bernard Hinault in 1984 by 10:32.

His current lead, he says, has been patiently built over the course of the race.

"I did not just do a great coup, I gained a few seconds here, a few seconds there," he told a news conference.

Nibali gained time on the cobbled stage to Arenberg in the first week and always finished ahead of his rivals in the mountains.   Continued...

 
Race leader Astana team rider Vincenzo Nibali of Italy climbs to Hautacam to win the 145.5km 18th stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Hautacam in the French Pyrenees mountains, July 24, 2014. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen