Tour de France winner-elect Vincenzo Nibali will “savour every moment” of Sunday’s final stage into Paris but admitted the scale of his achievement has not yet dawned on him.
The 29-year-old Italian only has to avoid crashing on a largely processional 137.5km last day to complete overall victory of this year’s race and become just the sixth rider in history to have won each of the three Grand Tours.
Nibali all but sealed the yellow jersey by extending his lead in the general classification to 7min 52sec with a fourth-placed finish on stage 20’s 54km individual time trial.
It was yet another impressive performance in a race in which the Astana rider has proved a master of all terrains and weather conditions, holding the yellow jersey for all but two days.
“I'm very happy,” Nibali said. “I haven't realised yet how big it is to win the Tour de France. I will keep that for tomorrow.
“It's difficult to ride the Tour, but the beauty of it is to cycle on the Champs-Elysees. That's the biggest memory I have kept from my first participation: the lap of honour, the enormous number of people, Paris' monuments. I will try to savour my victory as much as I can. Every moment will count.”
Nibali took a comfortable, 7min 10sec lead into stage 20, but rather merely protect his advantage and look to avoid crashing, he went on the offensive and defeated all of his rivals in the general classification.
However, he admitted he had felt nervous before leaving the start ramp in Bergerac.
“I have felt a bit of tension today, but it's normal I guess,” he added. “I wanted to do well in this time trial. It wasn't an easy course. It was a perfect one for specialists like Tony Martin. I was looking forward to reaching the finish. It required a big effort to ride the course. I'm pleased to have set the fourth best time."
Another man celebrating at the finish line was Jean-Christophe Peraud, who climbed up to second overall by finishing seventh on the stage.
It is set to be his highest ever finish at the Tour, with his previous best being ninth in 2011.
“It's an enormous satisfaction,” the 37-year-old Ag2r-La Mondiale rider said. “The withdrawals of [Chris] Froome and [Alberto] Contador opened a range of possibilities and I started dreaming about this second place. I'm happy to have achieved that goal. I have a feeling of mission accomplished and a lot of joy today.”