PARIS – Vincenzo Nibali emerged Sunday as the first Italian winner of the Tour de France in 16 years after a race defined by inclement weather and painful eliminations of other favorites.
Nibali benefited from the misfortunes of others. Chris Froome of Britain, the defending champion, quit early in the three-week race after three crashes amid miserable rain and cold that made the Tour sometimes seem as if it was being held in the early spring. Then Spaniard Alberto Contador, who finished first in the Tour three times but was stripped of his 2010 title over doping, hit a hole in the pavement and broke his leg, again on a damp, chilly day.
But Nibali, 29, who rides for the Astana team, did not cruise to victory by default. He won four stages of the Tour, including one in each of the three mountain ranges the Tour traversed this year: the Vosges, the Alps and the Pyrenees.
Nibali also wore the yellow jersey as the race leader for 19 of the 21 stages.
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“Now that I find myself on the highest step on the Champs-Elysees podium, it’s more beautiful than I ever imagined,” Nibali said after his victory.
Nibali is the first overall winner who also took four non-time-trial stages since the legendary Eddy Merckx in 1974. Nibali joined five other cyclists, including Merckx, who have won all three of cycling’s grand tours — the Tour de France, the Spanish Vuelta and the Giro d’Italia.
Marco Pantani of Italy won the Tour de France in 1998. While he was the subject of doping accusations in 2004, Pantani was found in a hotel room in Rimini, Italy, dead from a cocaine overdose at 34.
Nibali covered 2,275 miles in 89 hours, 59 minutes, 6 seconds. Frenchmen took the next two spots, as Jean-Christophe Peraud of the AG2R La Mondiale team was 7 minutes, 37 seconds behind and Thibaut Pinot of FDJ.fr was 8:15 behind.
• Fifth-place Tejay van Garderen, who was born in Tacoma and competes for BMC Racing, was the top American.
• German Marcel Kittel of the Giant-Shimano team won the largely ceremonial final stage in 3:20:50 for 85.4 miles.