Hautacam - Vincenzo Nibali has emphasised his total domination of the 2014 Tour de France with a fourth stage victory on Thursday.The 29-year-old Italian had admitted on Wednesday that he was riding within himself but on the 144.5km 18th stage from Pau to Hautacam, he decided to put on a demonstration.
And it was precisely on the final 13.6km hors category climb to the finish where Nibali turned on the after-burners and showed just how gaping the chasm between him and the competition is.
"On the last climb I possibly went too soon but I was in good shape," said Nibali.
"The pace had been fast because I didn't want to let the breakaway get too far ahead. It was really important for me to win this prestigious stage on the Hautacam.
"I'm really happy I did it and I dedicate it to my team because they worked so hard for me."
Seemingly the only danger to Nibali, who stretched his overall lead to more than seven minutes, came not from his rivals but from spectators.
On the climb, Nibali hit a woman who stepped out in front of him to try to take a picture.
The Italian's shoulder caught the young woman's arm but the Astana leader was unharmed and continued on to victory.
Although he admitted the Tour is as good as won, with only three stages left before the finish in Paris, Nibali said that incident showed he cannot count his chickens just yet.
"I'm very happy with this stage win and certainly I've accumulated a healthy advantage so I can remain calm for the next stages and Saturday's timetrial," he said.
"I caught her but it wasn't too bad. But this is the Tour de France, it goes very fast and people have to be careful because this can be very dangerous, for her as well as me.
"This happened on a climb but it could have happened on a descent where we go much faster."
A large breakaway had formed early in the day but it was down to just two riders when it reached the foot of the Hautacam.
Spaniard Mikel Nieve then left French escape companion Blel Kadri behind and struck out for home.
But with Nibali's Astana team controlling the peloton, the Spaniard's lead was down to about 1min 30sec by that time.
Nibali attacked with around 10km left and soon gobbled up Nieve, after which he rode on alone to a comprehensive victory.
Behind him the true battle for the Tour podium places was firing up.
Thibaut Pinot drove on behind and crossed the line second at 1:10 to move up from third to second overall at 7:10.
Pole Rafal Majka, the winner of two mountain stages, was third at 1:12 to secure victory in the King of the Mountains competition.
Jean-Christophe Peraud made it two Frenchmen on the podium as he came home fourth at 1:15.
The 37-year-old is just 13sec behind Pinot and 2sec ahead of Alejandro Valverde, who had started the day second.
It means three riders are separated by just 15sec in the battle for second place, which should be decided on Saturday in the 54km timetrial.
Although Pinot, 24, is second, he is widely regarded as the weakest of the three against the clock.
"Peraud knows how to ride timetrials and Valverde's the Spanish timetrial champion. There's only 15sec between us so you can say we're as good as starting level," said Pinot.
American Tejay Van Garderen came home fifth in the same time as Peraud to boost his chances of finishing in the top five overall.
He is sixth and trails 23-year-old Frenchman Romain Bardet by just over two minutes but the American is a far better timetriallist.
Results from the 18th stage of the Tour de France, a 145.5km ride from Pau to Hautacam on Thursday:
1. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/AST) 4h04min 17sec (average: 35.7 km/h), 2. Thibaut Pinot (FRA/FDJ) at 1:10, 3. Rafal Majka (POL/TIN) 1:12, 4. Jean Christophe Peraud (FRA/ALM) 1:15, 5. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) 1:15, 6. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 1:53, 7. Bauke Mollema (NED/BKN) 1:57, 8. Leopold Knig (CZE/APP) 1:57, 9. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/TRE) 1:59, 10. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 1:59
1. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/AST) 80hr 45min 45sec
2. Thibaut Pinot (FRA/FDJ) at 7min 10sec
3. Jean Christophe Peraud (FRA/ALM) 7:23.
4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 7:25.
5. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 9:27.
6. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) 11:34.
7. Bauke Mollema (NED/BKN) 13:56.
8. Laurens ten Dam (NED/BKN) 14:15.
9. Leopold Knig (CZE/APP) 14:37.
10. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/TRE) 16:25.
11. Pierre Rolland (FRA/EUC) 17:48.
12. Frank Schleck (LUX/TRE) 21:33.
13. Jurgen Van den Broeck (BEL/LTB) 29:58.
14. Yury Trofimov (RUS/KAT) 32:30.
15. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/BKN) 34:30.
16. Brice Feillu (FRA/BSE) 37:37.
17. Chris Horner (USA/LAM) 39:28.
18. Mikel Nieve (ESP/SKY) 41:34.
19. John Gadret (FRA/MOV) 41:41.
20. Richie Porte (AUS/SKY) 50:01.
21. Tanel Kangert (EST/AST) 50:34.
22. Ben Gastauer (LUX/ALM) 52:40.
23. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 56:26.
24. Cyril Gautier (FRA/EUC) 57:15.
25. Jan Bakelants (BEL/OPQ) 1h01:06.
26. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL/OPQ) 1h08:55.
27. Michael Rogers (AUS/TIN) 1h12:36.
28. Peter Velits (SVK/BMC) 1h18:27.
29. Tony Gallopin (FRA/LTB) 1h24:55.
30. Arnold Jeannesson (FRA/FDJ) 1h26:53.
31. Marcel Wyss (SUI/IAM) 1h30:53.
32. Luis ngel Mat (ESP/COF) 1h31:50.
33. Peter Stetina (USA/BMC) 1h41:10.
34. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/IAM) 1h44:47.
35. Tom Dumoulin (NED/GIA) 1h47:29.
36. Jakob Diemer Fuglsang (DEN/AST) 1h47:55.
37. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) 1h52:35.
38. Bram Tankink (NED/BKN) 1h52:47.
39. Nicolas Roche (IRL/TIN) 1h52:52.
40. Jon Izagirre (ESP/MOV) 1h52:57.
41. Giovanni Visconti (ITA/MOV) 1h53:40.
42. Thomas Voeckler (FRA/EUC) 1h54:08.
43. Michael Schr (SUI/BMC) 2h04:23.
44. Amal Moinard (FRA/BMC) 2h07:48.
45. Rafal Majka (POL/TIN) 2h07:50.
46. Kristijan Durasek (CRO/LAM) 2h15:10.
47. Jos Serpa Perez (COL/LAM) 2h19:25.
48. Michele Scarponi (ITA/AST) 2h21:10.
49. Alessandro De Marchi (ITA/CAN) 2h21:58.
50. Paul Voss (GER/APP) 2h22:45.
51. Tony Martin (GER/OPQ) 2h24:15.
52. Rudy Molard (FRA/COF) 2h27:47.
53. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) 2h30:57.
54. Benjamin King (USA/GRM) 2h35:03.
55. Mickal Cherel (FRA/ALM) 2h38:36.
56. Tom Slagter (NED/GRM) 2h38:45.
57. Jeremy Roy (FRA/FDJ) 2h41:14.
58. Florian Guillou (FRA/BSE) 2h41:55.
59. Michal Golas (POL/OPQ) 2h43:32.
60. Jrme Pineau (FRA/IAM) 2h45:38.
61. Yukiya Arashiro (JPN/EUC) 2h46:05.
62. Adam Hansen (AUS/LTB) 2h48:00.
63. Peter Sagan (SVK/CAN) 2h48:43.
64. Jos Herrada Lopez (ESP/MOV) 2h49:10.
65. Matteo Montaguti (ITA/ALM) 2h50:17.
66. Bartosz Huzarski (POL/APP) 2h50:59.
67. Jens Keukeleire (BEL/ORI) 2h51:03.
68. Markel Irizar (ESP/TRE) 2h53:12.
69. Kvin Reza (FRA/EUC) 2h57:07.
70. Tiago Machado (POR/APP) 2h57:57.
71. Daniel Oss (ITA/BMC) 2h58:05.
72. Michael Albasini (SUI/ORI) 3h01:44.
73. Jan Brta (CZE/APP) 3h01:47.
74. Johan Van Summeren (BEL/GRM) 3h02:44.
75. Martin Elmiger (SUI/IAM) 3h05:14.
76. Nicolas Edet (FRA/COF) 3h06:12.
77. Matthieu Ladagnous (FRA/FDJ) 3h06:21.
78. Blel Kadri (FRA/ALM) 3h06:35.
79. Lars Ytting Bak (DEN/LTB) 3h10:10.
80. Lieuwe Westra (NED/AST) 3h13:27.
81. Sbastien Reichenbach (SUI/IAM) 3h13:28.
82. Vasil Kiryienka (BLR/SKY) 3h14:02.
83. Imanol Erviti (ESP/MOV) 3h14:20.
84. Anthony Delaplace (FRA/BSE) 3h14:36.
85. Marco Marcato (ITA/CAN) 3h15:56.
86. Perrig Quemeneur (FRA/EUC) 3h16:23.
87. Nlson Oliveira (POR/LAM) 3h21:29.
88. Koen de Kort (NED/GIA) 3h25:57.
89. Rein Taaramae (EST/COF) 3h26:17.
90. Rubn Plaza (ESP/MOV) 3h26:44.
91. Sergio Paulinho (POR/TIN) 3h27:27.
92. Matthew Busche (USA/TRE) 3h28:24.
93. Samuel Dumoulin (FRA/ALM) 3h29:41.
94. Sbastien Minard (FRA/ALM) 3h30:04.
95. Lars Boom (NED/BKN) 3h30:29.
96. David Lopez (ESP/SKY) 3h31:36.
97. Niki Terpstra (NED/OPQ) 3h31:42.
98. Matteo Trentin (ITA/OPQ) 3h33:59.
99. Andriy Grivko (UKR/AST) 3h34:18.
100. Daniele Bennati (ITA/TIN) 3h35:20.
101. Florian Vachon (FRA/BSE) 3h35:31.
102. Gregory Rast (SUI/TRE) 3h35:45.
103. Alexandre Pichot (FRA/EUC) 3h36:10.
104. Gatis Smukulis (LAT/KAT) 3h36:12.
105. Jens Voigt (GER/TRE) 3h36:15.
106. Cedric Pineau (FRA/FDJ) 3h36:27.
107. Sep Vanmarcke (BEL/BKN) 3h39:02.
108. Julien Simon (FRA/COF) 3h40:08.
109. Bryan Coquard (FRA/EUC) 3h40:34.
110. Cyril Lemoine (FRA/COF) 3h42:38.
111. Roy Curvers (NED/GIA) 3h44:38.
112. Fabio Sabatini (ITA/CAN) 3h45:14.
113. Maarten Wijnants (BEL/BKN) 3h46:24.
114. Maciej Bodnar (POL/CAN) 3h47:06.
115. Jrgen Roelandts (BEL/LTB) 3h47:23.
116. Simon Clarke (AUS/ORI) 3h47:24.
117. Jean-Marc Bideau (FRA/BSE) 3h47:54.
118. Benat Intxausti (ESP/MOV) 3h52:02.
119. Matteo Tosatto (ITA/TIN) 3h54:25.
120. Luke Durbridge (AUS/ORI) 3h55:23.
121. Christian Meier (CAN/ORI) 3h57:20.
122. Jos Mendes (POR/APP) 3h58:45.
123. Christophe Riblon (FRA/ALM) 3h59:12.
124. Bernhard Eisel (AUT/SKY) 3h59:56.
125. John Degenkolb (GER/GIA) 4h01:00.
126. Alex Howes (USA/GRM) 4h03:16.
127. Yohann Gene (FRA/EUC) 4h06:06.
128. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/KAT) 4h06:45.
129. Maxim Iglinskiy (KAZ/AST) 4h08:27.
130. Arnaud Gerard (FRA/BSE) 4h10:14.
131. Tom Leezer (NED/BKN) 4h10:15.
132. Svein Tuft (CAN/ORI) 4h12:41.
133. Dmitriy Gruzdev (KAZ/AST) 4h14:30.
134. Kristjan Koren (SLO/CAN) 4h15:08.
135. Luca Paolini (ITA/KAT) 4h18:33.
136. Michael Morkov (DEN/TIN) 4h19:32.
137. Armindo Fonseca (FRA/BSE) 4h19:46.
138. Roger Kluge (GER/IAM) 4h20:45.
139. Sbastian Langeveld (NED/GRM) 4h22:05.
140. Jack Bauer (NZL/GRM) 4h24:24.
141. Marcel Sieberg (GER/LTB) 4h28:04.
142. Andreas Schillinger (GER/APP) 4h30:04.
143. Alessandro Vanotti (ITA/AST) 4h30:11.
144. Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU/GRM) 4h31:29.
145. Mark Renshaw (AUS/OPQ) 4h31:35.
146. Albert Timmer (NED/GIA) 4h31:45.
147. Mickael Delage (FRA/FDJ) 4h32:05.
148. Marcus Burghardt (GER/BMC) 4h33:57.
149. Zakkari Dempster (AUS/APP) 4h34:01.
150. Benoit Jarrier (FRA/BSE) 4h34:55.
151. Romain Feillu (FRA/BSE) 4h37:01.
152. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA/OPQ) 4h38:14.
153. Andre Greipel (GER/LTB) 4h38:17.
154. Danny Pate (USA/SKY) 4h40:02.
155. Tom Veelers (NED/GIA) 4h41:07.
156. Vladimir Isaichev (RUS/KAT) 4h46:29.
157. Adrien Petit (FRA/COF) 4h47:35.
158. Arnaud Dmare (FRA/FDJ) 4h48:11.
159. William Bonnet (FRA/FDJ) 4h48:41.
160. Jean-Marc Marino (FRA/CAN) 4h49:25.
161. Marcel Kittel (GER/GIA) 4h53:25.
162. Elia Viviani (ITA/CAN) 4h55:07.
163. Davide Cimolai (ITA/LAM) 5h05:24.
164. Cheng Ji (CHN/GIA) 5h30:36.