Nibali wins the 2014 Tour as Kittel takes another Champs-Elysees victory
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has become just the sixth rider in history to win all three of cycling’s Grand Tours, after winning the 2014 Tour de France in Paris on Sunday.
Nibali finished safely in the bunch on stage 21 as Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) won the bunch sprint on the Champs-Elysees for the second year in a row, edging out Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp).
As is traditional in the Tour de France, the final stage of the 2014 Tour began with the overall leader sipping champagne with his teammates before the proper racing got underway. The riders covered just 32.2km in the first hour, chatting with one another and offering congratulations to Vincenzo Nibali while his Astana team sat on the front of the bunch, maintaining a gentle tempo.
It took until the riders reached the first of nine laps around the 6.85km finishing circuit in Paris for there to be any real aggression in the race. Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) was the first rider to attack, setting off alone, but less than 4km later an attempt to bridge across by Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge) dragged the peloton across, ending the Frenchman’s escape.
With 49km to go in his final stage at the Tour de France, 42-year-old Jens Voigt (Trek) put in his one of his trademark attacks. A short time later Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida), also 42, tried to bridge across, with a handful of riders following across. The peloton quickly snuffed out that attack leaving just Voigt out solo.
Voigt was soon joined by Canadian ITT champion Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEdge) and Greg van Avermaet (BMC) with 45km still to race, before a bigger group moved across to join them. They were caught with 41.2km still to race, thanks to the efforts of a chasing Astana team.
Around this time a crash in the main field saw many riders hit the cobblestones, including the rider sitting in second-placed overall, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale). Four teammates were sent back to help pace Peraud back to the main field.
Svein Tuft tried to get off the front again but was caught 500m later, before Sylvain Chavanel tried his second attack as well. He was also caught, as Vincenzo Nibali came to the front, seemingly in an attempt to neutralise the race so Peraud could rejoin the peloton.
The Frenchman made contact with 38km to go, just before a group of four riders got up the road: Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), Richie Porte (Sky), Michael Morkov (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne-Seche). They opened up a gap that grew to as much as 23 seconds, but with the sprinters determined to end the stage in a bunch kick, they weren’t given much latitude.
Katusha sprinter and dual stage winner Alexander Kristoff had a puncture with less than 30km to go but was soon back into the peloton and moving his way up.
At roughly 25km to go Fonseca was dropped from the breakaway and the remaining three leaders had 15 seconds over the main field. A few more attacks came from Orica-GreenEdge’s Luke Durbridge, Christian Meier and Svein Tuft, but nothing stuck and it was still the three leaders left out front.
With three laps and 20.5km remaining the three leaders led by 23 seconds again, but with 15km to go that gap was down to 11 seconds as Cannondale, Giant-Shimano and Lotto-Belisol hovered near the front of the main field.
Richie Porte, in an attempt to hold off the sprinters for as long as possible, attacked solo from the three-rider breakaway with 13.5km to the finish as Morkov and Serpa made their way back to the peloton. With 11km remaining Porte had 10 seconds over the peloton but with 7.5km left, just before the final lap began, the Tasmanian was caught by the peloton.
On the front of the peloton the teams of the sprinters — Giant-Shimano, Lotto-Belisol and Katusha — were massing, trying to get their lead-out trains in order. As Europcar joined the front, Simon Clarke put in yet another attack for the Australian Orica-GreenEdge squad. Clarke managed to get clear as Giant-Shimano strung out the bunch in the chase, but the Victorian was caught with 3km to go.
It was a messy run-in to the final kilometre with a corner disrupting the organisation at the front of the peloton, but Giant-Shimano soon took control again. In the final sprint Alexander Kristoff took the early advantage but Kittel gradually gained ground on the Norwegian, passing him with just metres to spare to take his fourth stage win of this year’s Tour de France. Indeed it’s the second consecutive year that Kittel has won four stages including both the first and last stage of the race.
Vincenzo Nibali, too, won four stages, en route to a runaway victory in the general classification. The Sicilian finished 7:37 clear of Jean-Christophe Peraud in second and 8:15 clear of Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) in third; the biggest winning margin at the Tour de France since Jan Ullrich won in 1997.
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) also had a comfortable victory in the points classification; a classification he led from stage 2 onwards. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) won the KOM classification after an impressive third week of the race, Thibaut Pinot takes home the best young rider classification, and Ag2r-La Mondiale won the teams classification.
Previous stage reports
– Stage 1: Marcel Kittel takes Tour opener as Cavendish and Gerrans crash
– Stage 2: Vincenzo Nibali wins in Sheffield and takes Tour lead overall
– Stage 3: Marcel Kittel doubles up in London, Nibali holds on to yellow
– Stage 4: Marcel Kittel claims his third stage as Vincenzo Nibali defends yellow
– Stage 5: Lars Boom wins on the cobbles of stage 5 as Chris Froome crashes out
– Stage 6: Andre Greipel sprints to victory on stage 6, Nibali holds steady in yellow
– Stage 7: Matteo Trentin wins in a photo finish, Nibali secures a sixth day in yellow
– Stage 8: Blel Kadri solos to stage 8 victory, Nibali holds lead after GC shakeup
– Stage 9: Tony Martin takes solo win as Tony Gallopin rides into yellow
– Stage 10: Nibali takes back yellow as Contador crashes out of the Tour de France
– Stage 11: Gallopin wins stage 11 of Le Tour after a perfectly timed late attack
– Stage 12: Kristoff sprints to his first Tour de France stage win into Saint-Etienne
– Stage 13: Nibali climbs to a third stage win and stamps his authority on Le Tour
– Stage 14: Rafal Majka claims to stage 14 win in his first Tour de France
– Stage 15: Kristoff wins again as Bauer and Elmiger fall agonisingly short
– Stage 16: Michael Rogers wins stage 16 after late attack off the Port de Bales
– Stage 17: Majka wins again as Tinkoff-Saxo go back-to-back at Le Tour
– Stage 18: Nibali takes a fourth stage victory as the Tour leaves the Pyrenees
– Stage 19: Navardauskas wins solo after late attack on a wet stage 19 of Le Tour
– Stage 20: Martin wins Tour TT as Peraud and Pinot secure overall podium
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