There have been thrills and spills aplenty so far during the Tour De France of 2014 but one man has managed to keep his head as others around him have fallen by the way side. We are just days away from seeing the peleton roll into Paris on Sunday evening and barring disaster, it will be Vincenzo Nibali who will wear the famous yellow jersey onto the Champs Elysees this year.
The Italian rider has simply dominated the tour over the past three weeks with the Astana man clearly on a different level to those riders remaining in the race for the General Classification.
The tour started with disappointment for British cycling fans with sprint king Mark Cavendish and defending champion Chris Froome crashing out within the first few days and the action has continued ever since.
Froome had started the tour as the warm favourite to win the Tour for a second consecutive year but inclement weather and some bad luck ensured that the Team Sky leader headed home with a fractured wrist and he will now aim for Vuelta success next month.
That left Alberto Contador to battle it out with Vincenzo Nibali for the yellow jersey but the Spaniard also fell by the wayside after he picked up an injury following a crash on stage 10.
Contador suffered a shinbone fracture which ruled him out of the chance of winning the Tour for a third time and that left the door open for Nibali to stamp his authority over the general classification any my word, he has done exactly that and more.
Nibali may well have benefitted from injuries to Contador and Froome but he has been sensational in his own right over the past couple of weeks seeing off challengers from all angles. The Italian has remained cool when carnage has been going on all around him and he is all but assured of adding a Tour De France success to a CV that already includes a win in other two grand tours, the Vuelta and the Giro.
It is even more of a remarkable success when you consider that Nibali looked way below his best just a few short weeks ago when he could only manage to finish a disappointing 7th place in the Dauphine stage race.
That was a poor result for the Italian but he has managed to turn his form round in double-quick time to prove himself as the strongest in this Tour with the Astana rider almost appearing to toy with his rivals on the big mountain stages knowing that he is on a different level.
The Yellow Jersey looks to be already wrapped up and the same goes for the Green Jersey with Peter Sagan set to top the points standings once again.
The Slovakian is yet to win a stage on this year’s Tour, much to his frustration, but he has been by far the most consistent when it comes to the sprints and barring disasters he will wear the famous points jersey into Paris this weekend.
The King of the Mountains standings have been a little bit more hard-fought but at this stage it looks as though Rafa Majka of Poland will come out on top there after he climbed to victory in stage 17 on Wednesday to give him what now looks like an almost unassailable lead in the race for the polka dot jersey.
Other riders who have made their mark on the Tour this year include Marcel Kittel of Germany who won three stages during the first week in sprint finishes and Alexander Kristoff of Katusha, who is another fast man who is starting to make a name for himself as a sprinter.
There has also been some cheer for France with the likes of Thibaut Pinot, Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet fighting for top five positions on GC and all three are young enough to improve over the next few years which bodes well for the home fans.
In truth though, the 2014 Tour De France will be remembered as the year that Vincenzo Nibali destroyed the field and in the process joined an elite band of legends. In winning the Tour for the first time, Nibali will become just the sixth man in cycling history to have won all three Grand tours and few will have done it in easier fashion than the Sicilian.
He has brushed aside his rivals with the minimum of fuss and we can only imagine how he would have fared against a fit and firing Chris Froome and Alberto Contador had they survived the Tour.
The three of them look set to dominate cycling for the next few years and we can only hope that they meet at some point in the future but there is no doubt that this year’s Tour belongs to Vincenzo Nibali of Italy.