We have a winner. Vincenzo Nibali might have placed sixth on our list, but the Italian cyclist came in first at the 2014 Tour de France on Sunday.
On the podium, the Sicilian held back tears and held onto his prized stuffed lion as the Italian national anthem played across the Champs-Elysées. “This is something unique. I never imagined it could have happened, but I fought for it day by day,” Nibali said during his podium speech. “As long ago as last winter, with my team we decided this would be the year’s objective, and without my team and my family I would never have achieved it.”
French riders Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot took second and third place, respectively.
Team Astana rider Nibali, 29, is the first Italian to win the Tour since Marco Pantani in 1998. He led the race for 18 out of the 21 days. Prior to arguably the biggest win of the year, Nibali had claimed victory only in the Italian National Road Championships just prior to La Grande Boucle.
Nibali has been quietly hunting a big-time tour title since placing 19th in his Tour debut at age 22. He has shown steady improvement and has clearly perfected the art of the incisive attack, which he displayed during the Stage 2 battle royale. They call him “the shark” for a reason.
But even sharks share their victory champagne.