Vincenzo Nibali believes the 101st Tour de France suited him perfectly.
Nibali (Astana), barring an astonishing and unprecedented turn of events, will win the 101st Tour’s yellow jersey on Sunday evening after taking a lead of seven minutes 52 seconds to Paris, where the final stage is traditionally a procession, before being contested by the sprinters on the Champs-Elysees.
The Italian, winner of the 2010 Vuelta a Espana and 2013 Giro d’Italia, will become the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours, after Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Alberto Contador.
By the time he crosses the finish line in Paris, Nibali will have worn 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.
“The Tour de France this year was a great race, very different from the other Tours we’ve had,” said Nibali, who relinquished the lead for one day before reclaiming it on stage 10.
“It was almost made to measure for me. Quite difficult from the outset.”
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.
He is already looking towards the 2015 Tour, with Froome, Contador and 2014 Giro winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) likely to start in Utrecht.
Nibali, third behind Sir Bradley Wiggins and Froome in the 2012 Tour, said: “Yes, it will be a real battle. I’m really looking forward to the race next year.”