Nibali's journey from Sicily ends in yellow in Paris

Sun Jul 27, 2014 1:55pm EDT
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By Julien Pretot

PARIS - Thirteen years ago, Vincenzo Nibali packed his bags and left his home in Sicily to start the journey that led him to a triumphant ride on the Champs Elysees on Sunday as Tour de France champion.

The 29-year-old Italian, as soft-spoken in life as aggressive as he is on the bike, joined Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Alberto Contador and his compatriot Felice Gimondi as winners of all three grands tours.

The son of Giovanna and Salvatore, who own a movie rental shop, Nibali quickly realized riding his bike around the local streets would not be enough to emulate Gimondi.

"With my father, we would watch videos of Merckx, Gimondi, Sarroni, Moser," the humble Nibali said.

"But I can also talk about Hinault, Bobet. I know their story."

In a region where family ties are like glue, leaving home could have been a heart-breaking move, but Nibali learned to love his independence.

He moved from Messina to Tuscany to ride at junior level under the guidance of sports director Carlo Franceschi in the Mastromarco team. Nibali, who lived at Franceschi's home, quickly impressed, taking third place in the junior time trial world championships in 2002 and third again in the Under-23 world championships.

But just like Contador, he is not one to be content with second or third. The chisel-featured Nibali is an attacker and he long paid a heavy price for it.   Continued...

Astana team rider and leader's yellow jersey holder Vincenzo Nibali of Italy gives thumbs up as he cycles during the 137.5 km final stage of the Tour de France cycling race, from Evry to Paris Champs Elysees, July 27, 2014.     REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes