With time on his side entering the final segment of the 2014 Tour de France, Italy's Vincenzo Nibali earned the overall victory in the prestigious race Sunday. Nibali was never in any danger, as he kept up enough pace over the final mass sprint to secure his first Tour de France title with an overall time of 89:59:06.
Marcel Kittel of Germany won Stage 21 with a time of three hours, 20 minutes and 50 seconds for his fourth stage win.
Here's a look at the race's final standings:
|5||Tejay Van Garderen||United States||+11:24|
|7||Leopold Konig||Czech Republic||+14:32|
|9||Laurens Ten Dam||Netherlands||+18:11|
Nibali's chances of winning this year's race were elevated due to some early treacherous weather conditions—notably cold weather and heavy rain.
Perhaps a bit frustrated from being unable to complete the race, Froome commented on the lack of challenge from Nibali's remaining competition during an interview on NBC Sports (via ESPN.co.uk):
I think Nibali definitely does deserve the win this year, he did make it through all those stages that had all the crashes and all those difficult parts. But I do believe it would have been a different race if Alberto and I had been competing in the mountains.
It's been difficult for me watching the race—Nibali in the mountains has been relatively unchallenged, he hasn't had people attacking him and it hasn't been a mano-a-mano fight for the yellow jersey.
That's sad for a race like the Tour de France. I would have loved to have been there up in the mountains with him. But he survived, he stayed upright, and he deserves to win.
Nibali certainly owned the mountain stages of the race, as he came away with 168 points, which were good enough for second behind the 181 points of Poland's Rafal Majka. Here's a look at the final mountain standings:
|6||Alessandro De Marchi||Italy||78|
|10||Tejay Van Garderen||United States||48|
However, the mountain stages weren't the only area where the champion flourished. He held his own throughout the sprint segments as well, finishing sixth with 182 points. Take a glance at the final sprint standings, which Slovakia's Peter Sagan dominated with 431 points:
|9||Greg Van Avermaet||Belgium||153|
Cycling legend Greg LeMond saw something in Nibali's performance that made him think quite differently than Froome, per Peloton magazine:
LeMond to Nibali on Eurosport: You would've been No. 1 even with Froome and Contador here. #TdF— peloton magazine (@pelotonmagazine) July 27, 2014
With France's Thibaut Pinot earning the title of Best Young Rider, the four category winners posed for a photo upon the race's conclusion, via Le Tour de France:
After the race, Nibali spoke of his accomplishment during a press conference, as relayed by VeloNews.com:
For me the Vuelta was the most important because it showed me that I could aim to win big tours like the Giro and the Tour in the following years.
As an Italian it's obvious that for me the Giro is very important but it's also special for the Italian fans. But what makes the Tour so much bigger is the international attention it demands. It's different, it's bigger, it's more beautiful.
The level of competition is also higher than the others, although I had great rivals in both the Giro and the Vuelta.
Nibali has earned a spot in the history of the Tour de France, and he marks the 10th Italian to win the race. At 29 years of age, he has plenty of time remaining to accumulate a bevy of accolades in the cycling world.
We'll see if he can take another significant step further at the Vuelta a Espana. It should be conceived Froome will be fully recovered by the start of the race, which could lead to a tremendous battle between the two riders.
All standings and results courtesy of NBCSports.com unless otherwise notated.