Vincenzo Nibali secured the 2014 Tour de France crown on Sunday after dominating much of the highly dramatic series. The Astana rider held the maillot jaune for 18 of the race’s 21 days and rode comfortably into Paris with the peloton to seal his victory, even posing for photographs and dishing out champagne flutes to his teammates along the way. Nibali, 29, becomes the first Italian to win the Tour since 1998 and is only the sixth man in history to win all three Grand Tours, adding the yellow jersey to his Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana triumphs.
While Nibali must be credited for consistently performing throughout the Tour, it can be argued that he was aided by the retirement of some of his biggest rivals. From a British perspective, the 2014 Tour de France is largely forgettable due to home favourites Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome being forced to withdraw through injury. It was never anticipated that Cavendish could win the series overall, yet the sprint specialist was gunning for the green jersey until he dislocated his shoulder in a collision with Simon Gerrans at the end of stage one. Froome had been arguably the favourite to defend his 2013 crown and was in a healthy position before a culmination of major crashes forced him to throw in the towel during the fifth stage. Alberto Contador had also been earmarked as a contender for the title but he too was forced to retire through injury after the tenth stage. Nevertheless, it must be noted that Nibali produced an assured performance and was impressive across the whole campaign. He led the race almost from start to finish, accumulated four stage victories and realistically could only beat what was in front of him.
While the cycling itself may have been disappointing from a British perspective, the way that England hosted the race for the first three stages of the Tour will certainly live in the memory of everyone involved. Millions of people took to the streets to provide support and exhilaration, while the tough routes ensured that the hard work began before the race said ‘au revoir’ to England.
Elsewhere, Peter Sagan took the green jersey despite not picking up any stage wins, Rafal Majka became the king of the mountains with the polka dot jersey and third-placed Thibaut Pinot was handed the white jersey to claim the title as the best young rider.
Former Tour de France stage winner Magnus Backstedt has described this year’s race as the best in recent times. There were certainly many thrills and spills but ultimately Nibali was in control for much of the series. From a British point of view, it is hoped that 2015 will prove to be more successful. That is certainly the case for Team Sky who had a poor Tour after dominating the 2012 and 2013 races. Perhaps Mr Wiggins may be having a little smile to himself at home after being left out of their squad.
Featured image: sportal.co.nz