Photos by Kristof Ramon and Sirotti Photo
Words by Mikkel Condé
On Sunday the 27th of July 2014, Vincenzo Nibali entered in a very exclusive club of riders who have won all three Grand Tours (Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España and Tour de France). Only six riders have be able to make this heroic performance. Nibali didn’t start out this year’s Tour de France as the number one favorite but it didn’t take too long before he ascend the throne. His Astana team mates were impeccable throughout the entire race, keeping him out of danger. At no point during this Tour de France did Vincenzo Nibali seem to be in trouble. That itself is remarkable. The Shark of Messina has proven to be a true campionissimo! In the coming months, maybe years, many will ask the question: “Would Nibali have been able to win this Tour de France if Chris Froome and Alberto Contador hadn’t crashed out?” It’s an impossible question to answer. However, what we can say is that Vincenzo Nibali has done everything in his power to show the world that he’s a worthy winner of the race. He won four stages after dropping everybody else, including Froome and Contador on stage 2. He put on a big show on the cobblestones and on Hautacam, he attacked far from the finish to prove his strength. I’m sure even Chris Froome and Alberto Contador were impressed by this performance. Some might diminish his overall win but there is no doubt that Vincenzo Nibali was the strongest rider, by far, to finish this year’s Tour de France.
Not since Marco Pantani, in 1998, has an Italian rider won the Tour de France. Nibali ended a winless period of 16 years and now he’s ready to repeat another incredible performance, which Pantani is also the last rider to do: winning the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year. Already before he finished this Tour, Nibali revealed his big ambitions for 2015. Personally, I doubt it’s possible to win both races in this modern era of cycling but if anyone is capable of doing it, it’s this proud Sicilian. Marcel Kittel has been another campionissimo of this year’s Tour de France. The strong German managed to repeat last year’s winning performances with four stage wins, including the final day in Paris. Once again, Giant-Shimano proved to be the best sprint team in the world. They have the strongest leadout and they barely miss out. They only got it wrong once in the final (on stage 15). On Champs-Elysées, the Dutch team timed it perfectly when they hit the front of the peloton with less than 4 km to go. Nobody managed to overtake them and even though Alexander Kristoff tried to anticipate the inevitable, Marcel Kittel crossed the finishing line first for the second year in a row showing he’s still the best sprinter in the world. There is no other rider in the peloton right now who can match Kittel’s top speed in these kinds of power sprints. It’s difficult to see who should be able to push the German off the sprinter throne in the coming years.
With the Tour de France ending, there is only one month to go before the Vuelta a España starts in Jerez on the 23rd of August. Many had hoped for a Tour de France rematch between Alberto Contador and Chris Froome. Unfortunately, Contador’s recovery is taking longer than expected. Still, we can expect a fantastic show on the Spanish roads. Together with Chris Froome, we will have a star line up including Giro d’Italia winner Nairo Quintana, Purito Rodriguez, Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans, Rigoberto Uran, Domenico Pozzovivo, Fabio Aru, Thibaut Pinot, Chris Horner, Julian Arredondo, Carlos Betancur and many many more top class riders. Personally, I’m certain this will be the best Vuelta in years.
Now it’s time to recharge the batteries and get ready for a great last part of the 2014-season.