Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) collected the final yellow jersey of the 2014 Tour de France on Sunday in Paris as Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) won the 21st and final stage, a 136km leg from Evry that ended with a sprint on the Champs-Élysées.
Kittel took his second win on the fabled boulevard ahead of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp).
“I was hoping I could still make it,” said Kittel after collecting his fourth stage win of this Tour. “Kristoff really held against me. I tried to pass him. At one moment, he couldn’t accelerate any more, and that was my moment. I’m super proud and very happy.”
On the overall, it was Nibali triumphant by 7:52 over Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) third.
“This is the most beautiful moment of my life,” said Nibali. “It is even more beautiful than I imagined. I dedicate this success to my team and my family. It’s like a fairy tale.”
As Astana led Nibali onto the finishing circuit first Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), then Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) had a go, before a four-man break went clear — Richie Porte (Sky), Michael Morkov (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida) and Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne-Seche Environnement)
Péraud had a fright early on, sliding out with less than 44km to go, but remounted and rejoined with the help of three teammates.
“It’s never easy in the race, and I never do things simply,” he said afterward. “I suspected something was going to happen.”
A few kilometers further along Kristoff punctured and likewise found himself frantically chasing the bunch.
With 25km to race the break had shed Fonseca and had just 18 seconds’ advantage.
As the bunch closed in Svein Tuft and Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge), Marcel Sieberg (Lotto-Belisol) and Samuel Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) tried to bridge to the leaders, but fell short.
Porte would be the last man standing, but not for long. He was yanked back as a light sprinkle began to fall, with 7.4km to go.
Then Lotto, Katusha and Giant set about arranging themselves for the sprint, only to see Simon Clarke (Orica-Green-Edge) take a last dig.
With 4km to go Clarke had seven seconds over the bunch. But he, too, was caught and Giant, Omega Pharma and Katusha all went to war in the final 3km, with Kittel taking the final stage —and Nibali the final yellow jersey — of the 2014 Tour de France.
“I fought for this every day,” said Nibali. “I started building from a long way out with a winter preparation with the team because we had decided this was our objective.
“I want to thank my team because when you achieve an objective, you do so together, not just those here with me but also those back in Italy. It’s a success that I want to dedicate to all the staff in the team and to my family, my wife, Rachelle, and my daughter Emma.
“If it hadn’t been for my parents who have supported me since the beginning then I wouldn’t have been here. I’ve never felt more emotional in my career.”
Before the men took center stage, Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv) won the inaugural La Course by Le Tour de France, an 89km race using the same finishing circuit as the men would attack later in the day.