sport

Nibali inspired by 2012 defeat

Vincenzo Nibali has revealed looking up at Sir Bradley Wiggins on the top step of the podium at the 2012 Tour de France was a major motivation behind his dominant victory in the 2014 race.

Nibali safely negotiated the final stage into Paris on Sunday to complete a 7min 52sec triumph over second-placed Jean-Christophe Peraud in the general classification.

The victory comes two years after he finished third behind Wiggins and Chris Froome in his last appearance at the Tour, and he admitted it had been humbling to return to the podium as winner this time around.

\"It was really tough to be there on the podium,\" he said. \"I was very emotional. I was here two years ago looking at Wiggins on the podium, and I was thinking that I hope that I can be there one day.

\"It was an amazing atmosphere and it just feels great. It was a huge honour.\"

Nibali adds Tour victory to his wins at the Vuelta a Espana in 2010 and the Giro d'Italia in 2013, and subsequently becomes only the sixth rider in history to have won all three Grand Tours, joining Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Alberto Contador.

The 29-year-old Italian has achieved the feat without dominating the sport in the way that the likes of Merckx did, but he insisted joining such an elite group was no less of an honour.

\"I have never really thought about records or history,\" he added. \"I had my Vuelta victory in 2010, the Giro last year and the Tour this year, so I have conquered each of these races step by step.

\"Winning the Giro d'Italia was a massive emotion for me because, when I was young I was watching it every day. I used to watch the Tour with [Marco] Pantani and [Miguel] Indurain. I grew up watching them and celebrating them. I made my way here to the Tour and to be the winner is incredible.\"

Nibali's Tour victory was built on four stage wins and a magnificent performance on the cobbled fifth stage, when he finished third on the day and opened up a lead of more than two and a half minutes on Contador.

Defending champion Froome was forced to abandon the Tour that day after a spree of falls, and Contador then followed him out of the race five days later after breaking his leg on stage ten.

It left Nibali without his two main rivals, but he is confident he would have won even if they had remained at the race.

\"I think would still have had a great race,\" he added. \"I would have found it harder and it would have been a lot tougher because they are great competitors and they have both shown they are great climbers and great leaders, but I prepared really well for this race and my team were well prepared.

\"I showed it in the mountain stages - in every mountain finish, I was there. Froome and Contador are great champions and I hope in future that I will be able to race against them.

\"The most important stage was the cobblestone stage. I was a bit nervous about it. I knew I could do something great on it.\"