Nibali Takes Fourth Stage Win of Tour de France; Extends Lead
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has placed an exclamation point on the 2014 Tour de France. Nibali surged into the lead on the hors categorie climb to the finish to win the final mountain stage of this year’s Tour. The Italian won Stage 18, a 145.5-km ride from Pau to Hautacam in 4:04:17. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) finished second at 1:10, and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) finished third at 1:12. Nibali has extended his lead to more than seven minutes over Pinot.
An early break consisted of Thomas Voeckler, Kevin Reza, and Bryan Coquard (all from Europcar); Mikel Nieve (Sky); Lars Boom (Belkin); Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale); Jesus Herrada and Jon Izaguirre (both from Movistar); Alessandro De Marchi and Marco Marcato (both from Cannondale); Tiago Marchado and Bartosz Huzarski (both from NetApp-Endura); Sylvain Chavanel and Marcel Wyss (IAM Cycling); Yury Trofimov (Katusha); Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Quick Step); Julien Simon (Cofidis); Florian Guillou (Bretagne-Seche Environnement); Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ.fr); and Daniel Oss (BMC). The break took a four-minute lead, but Astana went to the front and pegged the lead at about 3:30.
On the Tourmalet, Chavanel attacked. Kadri and Nieve countered, and the pair caught and dropped Chavanel halfway up the ascent. At the summit, they left Trofimov, De Marchi, and Huzarski by 1:40 and the maillot jaune group by four minutes.
At the crest of the Tourmalet, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who was in second place overall, attacked the maillot jaune group. Herrada and Izaguirre dropped back from the early break to help their captain, and the three Movistar men caught Voeckler and Wyss to make it five. The maillot jaune group chased, however, and reeled in the Valverde group on the descent.
With 30 km left, Kadri and Nieve led the maillot jaune group by 1:28. That lead had dropped to 1:00 at the base of the climb to Hautacam.
About a km into the ascent, Nieve dropped Kadri. The Sky man forged ahead, hoping to salvage a disappointing Tour for the British squad. Behind, however, the maillot jaune group was stirring.
With 10 km left, Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) attacked. Nibali joined the American and then dropped him. With nine km remaining, the Astana man trailed Nieve by 0:30. One km later, Nibali caught and dropped the Spaniard.
Majka pursued Nibali but could not get to grips with him. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) attacked, and Pinot countered. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and van Garderen joined the pair, and Valverde was dropped.
With 3.5 km left, Pinot attacked and set out to catch Majka. Valverde chased in an attempt to save his second place. He could not do so, as Pinot, Peraud, and van Garderen powered away from him.
Ahead, Nibali was well clear of the pursuit. As he reached the finish line, he pointed to the Astana logo on his jersey. Today’s stage win was the Italian’s fourth of this year’s Tour.
"This is my victory today. My team and I dedicate it to you!," Nibali wrote on Twitter following his victory and encouraged people around the world to train more. If you want to follow his advice you may set up a training diary here to track your training and add some motivation.
In the overall, Nibali leads Pinot by 7:10 and Peraud by 7:23. Stage 18 will not change this state of affairs. The rolling, 208.5-km ride from Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour to Bergerac will have one categorized climb, a Category 4 ascent that will summit 13 km from the finish. That should not keep the sprinters from fighting for the win. Who will prevail? Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano)? Peter Sagan (Cannondale)? Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!