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Stage winner Vincenzo Nibali of Italy climbs towards Hautacam after breaking away from his rivals during the eighteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 145.5 kilometers (90.4 miles) with start in Pau and finish in Hautacam, Pyrenees region, France, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Tour de France: Nibali wins Stage 18, closes in on victory
Cycling » Italian wins his fourth stage this year in mountain leg.
First Published Jul 24 2014 06:16 pm • Last Updated Jul 24 2014 10:47 pm

Argeles-Gazost, France • Vincenzo Nibali crushed everyone on the last mountain leg of the Tour de France on Thursday, all but ensuring he will be crowned champion when the race ends in Paris in three days.

On the big, final climb of Stage 18, the Italian broke out of the peloton, chased down breakaway riders, and rode solo in front for the last eight kilometers (five miles) uphill.

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Stage 19

Friday, 6 a.m.

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Nibali, who captured his fourth stage of the Tour, stuck out his tongue, tapped his chest, and raised a fist skyward as he finished the 145.5-kilometer (90-mile) leg more than a minute ahead of Thibaut Pinot of France, who was second. Rafal Majka of Poland, in third, was another two seconds back.

The remarkable effort by Nibali, set to become the first Italian to win the Tour since Marco Pantani in 1998, essentially reduced the race drama to who will join him on the podium on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday.

"I didn’t want to lose command. My goal was to win here," Nibali said. "It was important to me to win another stage in the Pyrenees. The team worked really hard and this victory is for them."

He is also set to become only the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours of France, Italy and Spain. He won the 2013 Italian Giro and the 2010 Spanish Vuelta.

One man basking at the finish line was Alexandre Vinokourov, the general manager of Nibali’s Astana team, and a former rider who was expelled from the 2007 Tour for blood doping. He said the stage victory was "not by chance."

"We said, ‘we need to show that there’s a boss,’" Vinokourov told French TV. The last time the term "boss" was used regularly at the Tour was when a doped-up Lance Armstrong won seven in a row.




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