Sunday, 27 July 2014
2014 Tour de France: Kittel wins Parisian King Sprint – Nibali crowned
Marcel Kittel won his second successive stage on the Champs Elysée having won last year. This time he beat Alexander Kristoff into second place. Kristoff was in the lead as the line approached by Kittel had his characteristic strength to put in a last spurt in the fianl 50 metres or so that moved him clear and won the stage. This takes Marcel Kittel's overall stage total to 8 – 4 wins in 2013 and 4 this year, so he is beginning to move into exalted company!
Vincenzo Nibali was duly crowned as the 2014 Tour de France winner. There was no change overall, although the time gaps have changed as little as Nibali made sure he rode over the finishing line with his team, so Jean-Christophe Peraud, for instance, gained a few seconds. When you are leading by well over seven minutes a few seconds lost on the final stage changes nothing.
Nibali has now won all three Grand Tours – France, Italy and Spain. He joins only five other riders who have managed this feat: Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault and Alberto Contador.
Nibali is a very worthy winner – he has clearly been the best rider in this year's Tour. You can speculate what would have happened if Chris Froome and Alberto Contador hadn't crashed out of this year's Tour but what is important is that Nibali finished and they didn't. I fancy that if Froome hadn't crashed and injured himself on Stage 4 from Le Touquet to Lille, it is very likely that he would have lost considerable time to Nibali on the cobbles the next day.
Le Tour 2014 has been great for France with two French riders on the podium – Jean-Christophe Peraud and Thibaut Pinot along with Romain Bardet in sixth. Of course, Pinot also has the White Jersey as the best young rider.
The Tour de France continues to become increasingly global with Ramunas Navardauskas as the first Lithuanian stage winner and Rafa Majka as Poland's first winner of the Climbers' Jersey. Ji Cheng, clear winner of La Lanterne Rouge at 6.02:24 down on Nibali, is the first Chinese rider to compete in the Tour and the first to finish.
Earlier in the day Marianne Vos deservedly won the first La Course - the race on the Champs Elysée for women. See details here. Unfortunately, Lizzie Armistead crashed out.