Vincenzo Nibali's riding expertise came to the fore as he triumphed in Stage 18 of Tour de France 2014. Nibali of the Astana team is also the yellow jersey holder. This win almost assures him of the Tour de France 2014 win.
This is the fourth occasion that he's won a stage in this year's Tour de France. He had clinched victories in an early leg of the tournament in Sheffield and in the mountainous stretches of the Vosges and the Alps. In stage 18, he's come up trumps in the most gruelling of all mountainous stretches, namely the Pyrenees.
He seemed overjoyed after the win. "It's fantastic to have won four stages. I didn't believe I'd do that. There aren't many stages till the finish now and my lead is consolidated. I'm pretty serene BBC Sports quoted the Stage 18 winner.
Frenchman Thibaut Pinot of the FDJ.fr team came second, while Rafal Majka of Tinkoff-Saxo followed up his Stage 17 win with another podium finish, as he stood third.
As 9.5 kilometres were left, Nibali went for broke, that too in the steep stretches of Hautacam. Chris Horner of the Lampre Merida team was ahead of him at this stage but not for long. Nibali cycled past him. He then chased after his next target Mikel Nieve of Team Sky and went past him too. Now in front, he began the last climb. It was here it became evident why he was the yellow jersey holder as his racing proficiency was at its fullest.
Nibali stood firm amidst the arduous Pyrenees and this gave him a great deal of satisfaction. "I've wanted to leave a footprint in the Pyrenees. I wanted to show that I'm the strongest, I wanted the stage win," he said.
Thibaut Pinot gave French fans a reason to smile as he is second in the General Classification (GC) standings. Alejandro Valverdre of the Movistar team was second as Stage 18 began but by the end of the stage he had slipped down to fourth. He was hopeful of striding back into his earlier position as he cited tiredness for sliding down.
"I was at my limits. If I have good legs, I can take the second place back," the disappointed Spaniard said.
Stage 18 results
1. Vincenzo Nibali [Ita/Astana] 4hrs 04mins 17secs
2. Thibaut Pinot [Fra/FDJ.fr]
3. Rafal Majka [Pol/Tinkoff – Saxo]
4. Jean-Christophe Peraud [Fra/AG2R]
5. Tejay van Garderen [US/BMC Racing]
General classification standings
1. Vincenzo Nibali [Ita/Astana] 80hrs 45mins 45secs
2. Thibaut Pinot [Fra/FDJ.fr] +7mins 10secs
3. Jean-Christophe Peraud [Fra/AG2R] +7mins 23secs
4. Alejandro Valverde [Spa/Movistar] +7mins 25secs
5. Romain Bardet [Fra/AG2R] +9mins 27secs