Peerless Nibali all but seals Tour victory with final mountain stage win
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 from Pau by easing away from the group of favourites 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, one minute 10 seconds 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, a massive seven minutes 10 seconds 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.
Only a crash or a disaster in Saturday’s final time trial can prevent Astana rider Nibali from adding to his 2010 Vuelta and last year Giro d’Italia titles.
Pinot, Peraud and Valverde are likely to fight for the remaining places on the podium.
Nibali’s only scare in the 18th stage, a 145.5-km trek,, came when he hit a careless spectator who was on the side of the road midway through the final ascent.