Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali has proclaimed the stage that ended in Sheffield, which he won to take the yellow jersey, as “the best day of the race.”
Nibali completed victory in the 101st Tour in Paris as Marcel Kittel won the final stage on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday.
A dominant showing saw Nibali (Astana) triumph by seven minutes 52 seconds to become the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours, after Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Alberto Contador.
The Italian, winner of the 2010 Vuelta a Espana and 2013 Giro d’Italia, wore the fabled maillot jaune for 18 of the Tour’s 21 race days, having first taken the race lead on day two in Sheffield with his first of four stage victories.
Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) finished second and third to ensure there was two Frenchmen on the Tour podium for the first time since 1984, when Laurent Fignon won ahead of Hinault.
Who knows how Nibali would have fared had misfortune and injury not struck 2013 winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) and two-time champion Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), both of whom abandoned with broken bones.
But there is no doubt Nibali has been the race’s dominant rider, winning across four mountain ranges.
Nibali says he will now chase the world champion’s rainbow jersey as his next major target.
“After winning the Vuelta, the Giro and the Tour, I’ll keep focusing on Grand Tours but I’d also like to crown it all with a rainbow jersey one year,” he said.
Nibali won in Sheffield, La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges, Chamrousse in the Alps and Hautacam in the Pyrenees, but the greatest time he took out of his rivals was on the cobbled fifth stage in northern France.