There is still a week and six stages to go of the incident-packed 2014 Tour de France, with three consecutive mountain stages in the Pyrenees and the race's only time trial, as well as a couple of flat days.
However, the race for the yellow jersey is all but over as—with the early withdrawals of Alberto Contador and Chris Froome—Astana's Vincenzo Nibali has all but wrapped things up.
The final week was supposed to decide things, but with the Italian more than four-and-a-half minutes up on his nearest rival, Alejandro Valverde, the race is all but done in the general classification, per the Sunday Times' David Walsh:
Many said Tour would be won on 3 big days in Pyrenees. I don't think so. Race now is for 2nd and 3rd. Nibali much stronger than the others.— David Walsh (@DavidWalshST) July 18, 2014
People say anything can still happen. Nibali's got more than 3.30 on his nearest rival, he's the strongest climber. He will win the Tour.— David Walsh (@DavidWalshST) July 18, 2014
Even Nibali's rivals seem to have admitted defeat, with Movistar's Valverde effectively suggesting it is now simply a race to be the best of the rest, per BBC Sport's Peter Scrivener: "Vincenzo Nibali is the strongest but there's nothing in it between the rest of us."
Indeed, as long as Nibali stays on his bike in the final stages, he will win the 2014 Tour, and the rest of the field will have to fight for podium places.
Nibali's maiden Tour de France triumph should be expected come the ride into Paris on Sunday, and it will be well deserved as he has been far and away the pick of the riders throughout.
As to what is in store for the riders after Monday's rest day in Carcassonne, Tuesday sees the Tour's longest stage at 237.5 kilometres with the finish in Bagneres-de-Luchon and includes the hors categorie, Port de Bales.
A stage for a breakaway, there is a possibility that Team Sky—who have endured a torrid Tour after Froome's exit and Richie Porte's subsequent demise—will attempt to claim a stage win through Geraint Thomas, who has said previously that he would target the Pyrenees, per Sky Sports: "I want to recuperate a bit over the next few days and then try and do something again in the Pyrenees."
Will Vincenzo Nibali win the 2014 Tour de France?
Stages 17 and 18 remain in the Pyrenees and will be tough on the riders this late in the race.
The former is the shortest road stage of the three weeks at 125 kilometres, but includes four categorised climbs in the second half of the day, and could be a chance for Valverde to all but confirm a podium spot.
The latter includes a summit finish atop Hautacam and should be a day for another breakaway winner.
Stage 19 is a flat one but is very difficult to call, as the sprinting likes of Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel and Peter Sagan will be looking to the prestigious final-day win on the Champs-Elysees.
However, despite leading the points classification by some distance, the latter rider has yet to win a stage and may go for it here with Kittel likely to take the Stage 21 sprint finish as he did last year.
Stage 20—the race's only time trial—could have been Froome's chance to take a second consecutive yellow jersey, but—with the Englishman crashing out early—Nibali's lead is now such that it is likely to play little role in the race winner's outcome.
Thus, Nibali has the 2014 Tour de France all but tied down, and the last week's stages will do little to change that.
He is the strongest climber and thus should lose no time in the Pyrenees, and then it is simply a matter of playing it safe until he can ride into Paris victorious on Sunday.