Tour de France Stage 18: Vincenzo Nibali rides away to fourth stage win
Italian poised to make history, Rafal Majka seals polka dot jersey, Alejandro Valverde off the podium
Astana's Vincenzo Nibali has taken his fourth stage victory of the 101st edition of the Tour de France after riding away from his rivals on the final mountain of this year's race, the Hautacam, as he heads towards becoming just the sixth man ever to win all three of cycling's Grand Tours.
Tinkoff-Saxo's Rafal Majka was in a quartet of riders that fought it out for second place seconds behind the Italian and just has to finish the race in Paris on Sunday to ensure himself victory in the mountains classification.
Also in that group of four riders were the men who occupied third and fourth overall this morning, Thibaut Pinot of FDR.fj and Jean-Christophe Peraud of AF2R.
They had started the stage 34 and 42 seconds respectively behind second-placed Alejandro Valverde, a move from Piinot which Peraud and BMC's Tejay van Garderen followed distancing the Spaniard with 5.5 kilometres remaining.
The FDJ.fr rider crossed the line in second place, 1 minute 10 seconds down on Nibali, with Majka third and Peraud fourth, the latter 1 minutes 15 seconds behind the stage winner.
Valverde tried desperately to limit his losses but crossed the line 44 seconds behind Peraud, and drops to fourth overall, just 2 seconds behind the Frenchman.
Earlier in the stage, AG2R's Blel Kadri, a member of what had been a 20-man escape group on the 145.5 kilometre stage from Pau, overhauled fellow escapee Mikel Nieve of Team Sky to scoop the 5,000 euro Souvenir Jacques Goddet prize on offer for being the first man over the Col du Tourmalet.
The pair began the final ascent of the Tourmalet together, but Nieve subsequently dropped the Frenchman. Behind, Nibali followed a move from Lampre-Merida's Chris Horner with 10.5 kilometres to go, the pair overhauling Kadri and the race leader distancing the current Vuelta champion shortly after.
With 8 kilometres left, Nibali cruised past Nieve on his way to becoming what is likely to be the first Tour de France champion since Eddy Merckx in 1974 to win four road stages.
There remained one scare for him as he struck a female spectator, on the phone and with her back to the race, presumably trying to get her face on television, but the Astana rider stayed upright as he rode away to effectively seal his place in cycling history.
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