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Sunday July 27, 2014 MYT 1:57:36 AM
Sunday July 27, 2014 MYT 1:57:36 AM
by julien pretot
PERIGUEUX France (Reuters) - Having dominated on all terrains, Vincenzo Nibali is set to win the Tour de France after avoiding any late dramas on Saturday in the penultimate stage, a 54-km time trial from Bergerac won by Tony Martin.
Italian Nibali finished fourth in the stage, nearly two minutes slower than the dominant German - who clocked one hour six minutes 21 seconds - but will roll into Paris on Sunday with an overall lead of seven minutes 52 seconds.
Jean-Christophe Peraud climbed to second overall ahead of compatriot Thibaut Pinot and France are now poised to have two riders on the podium for the first time since Laurent Fignon and Bernard Hinault finished first and second in 1984.
Nibali will become the sixth man to win all three grand tours barring a crash in Sunday's processional final stage that ends on the Champs Elysees, and the first Italian to win the Tour de France since the late Marco Pantani in 1998.
"It was not an easy time trial, it required a lot of power," said Astana rider Nibali who has won four stages and has worn the yellow jersey for most of the race since snatching it on the second day in Sheffield, England.
FDJ.fr rider Pinot, who will claim the white jersey for the best under-25 rider ahead of compatriot Romain Bardet, is 8:24 off the pace.
"Near the end I was empty, the last 5-km felt really long," said Pinot.
Peraud started the day third overall behind Pinot but was stronger against the clock than his young compatriot and managed to beat him despite suffering a puncture soon after the halfway point.
His AG2R-La Mondiale team mate Bardet also had a puncture 2-km from the line, losing fifth place overall to American Tejay van Garderen by two seconds.
Spain's Alejandro Valverde, fourth in the race standings, was tired and never threatened.
"The legs did not respond the way I expected," said Movistar rider Valverde, the Spanish time trial champion.
"During the stage I knew the time differences and therefore I knew the podium was lost."
Poland's Rafal Majka, who claimed two mountain stages, is to take the polka dot jersey for the mountain classification while Slovakian Peter Sagan will easily claim the green jersey for the points classification.
Alessandro De Marchi of Italy was voted the most aggressive rider of the event by a panel of journalists and race officials while AG2R-La Mondiale will win the team classification.
Nibali, who won the 2010 Tour of Spain and last year's Giro d'Italia, has surrendered the yellow jersey for only one day since taking it in Sheffield.
Briton Chris Froome, the 2013 champion, crashed out on the fifth stage while Spain's Alberto Contador, the 2007 and 2009 winner who had looked in ominous form coming into the race, also pulled out after an accident on the 10th leg.
Before Nibali, only Frenchmen Hinault and Jacques Anquetil, Italy's Felice Gimondi, Belgian Eddy Merckx and Contador had won the Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta.
(Editing by Martyn Herman)
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