Kittel Wins Final Stage of Tour de France; Nibali Takes Overall
The 2014 Tour de France is in the books. It ended moments after Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) took a bunch sprint to win Stage 21, a flat, 137.5-km run from Evry to Paris, when maillot jaune Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) crossed the finish line. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) finished the 2014 Tour’s final stage in second, and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) finished third.
As is usually the case, the final stage of the Tour de France began as a procession for the winner. The Astana riders enjoyed glasses of champagne, and the four individual classification leaders—Nibali, Peter Sagan (Cannondale, points competition), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank, mountain competition), and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr, best young rider competition) appeared at the head of the peloton to be photographed. (Ag2r-La Mondiale won the team competition.) For most of the stage, the pace was leisurely.
The pace quickened when the riders hit the Champs Elysees for the first of nine laps. Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) launched the first attack, and the peloton reeled him in. Jens Voigt (Trek), who was completing his last Tour, jumped clear, and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEdge) joined him. They were caught, and Richie Porte (Sky), Michael Morkov (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), and Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) countered. The quartet forged a 20-second lead over the bunch, which Lotto-Belisol and Giant-Shimano led.
With 43 km left, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who was second overall, crashed on a right-hand turn. He remounted quickly, but he needed three teammates to tow him back to the bunch, which would not wait for him.
With about 25 km left, Fonseca was dropped. Tuft accelerated, and the break led the bunch by 0:20 with 20 km remaining.
Giant-Shimano, Lotto-Belisol, and Cannondale led the chase. With 13 km to go, Porte attacked. Serpa and Morkov dropped back. The Australian’s lead was 0:12 with 12.5 km left and 0:07 two km later. With seven km to go, the peloton absorbed him.
Lotto-Belisol, Giant-Shimano, and Katusha took over at the front, only to see Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) take off with five km remaining. One km later, he led the field by 0:07, but the bunch reeled him with three km left.
Giant-Shimano and Omega Pharma-Quick Step battled for control of the peloton. The Dutch squad took the bunch into the last km. Kittel launched early, perhaps too early, and Kristoff overtook him. The German found another gear, however, and bested the Norwegian by half a bike length.
Kittel said that he owed his fourth stage win of this Tour to teamwork. “I would like to say a big, big thanks to my team,” the German said. “They were amazing again today and helped to make this win possible. It was an incredible job that we did and an amazing experience to win again here. I think you never see anything at another race that you can compare to this. It is something special.”
The spotlight belonged to Nibali, the 29-year-old Italian who joined an elite group by winning all of cycling’s Grand Tours. Life has changed greatly for the young man who left Sicily at 16 to live with directeur sportif Carlo Franceschi for 10 months of the year. He has not forgotten who he is, however, and the fact that no one wins the Tour de France alone. After Stage 20, the Shark of the Strait said, “The people to thank first are the staff – the mechanics who wake up at 5 am, the masseurs who work 18 hours a day, the cook who drives 600km from hotel to hotel. The staff are the ones who keep us on the bikes all the way to Paris, and when we cross the line tomorrow we do it because of them.“
After crossing the finish line in Paris, Nibali expressed similar sentiments. “When you win the Tour de France you do not win alone. My teammates, the whole team staff, Directeurs Sportif [Giuseppe] Martinelli, [Aleksandr] Shefer, [Dmitriy] Fofonov and [Dmitriy] Sedoun [are] among the best in the world.
“Thank you to our sponsors and thank you [Aleksandr] Vinokourov…for giving me the team that won this Tour de France.”
In the overall, Nibali beat Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) by 7:37 and Pinot by 8:15. These riders and the other men of July will cross paths in the other summer races such as the Clasica San Sebastian, the Vuelta a Espana, and fall races such as the World Championships and the Tour of Lombardy. Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out how they fare!