• Tour de France

Nibali avoids trouble in wet to close in on victory

ESPN staff
July 25, 2014
Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania celebrates his maiden stage victory in the Tour de France © Getty Images

Vincenzo Nibali closed in on a maiden Tour de France victory by avoiding trouble in the third-last stage of the race, but drama unfolded in the final three kilometres in atrocious conditions near the finish line in Bergerac.

A strategic break by Garmin-Sharp gave Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania his first ever stage win, seven seconds ahead of a breakaway sprint that narrowly failed to eat into his lead that at had one point been 23 seconds.

It was vindication for Garmin-Sharp, who had controversially selected the 26-year-old Navardauskas ahead of Britain's David Millar for the Tour. It is also the first stage won by a Lithuanian in Tour history.

But it was a dramatic crash in the peloton in the final three kilometres that grabbed the attention, as fifth-placed Romain Bardet was taken down as was green jersey wearer Peter Sagan. Both remounted and completed the stage, with Bardet retaining fifth and Sagan also closing in on an overall points success.

Two stages remain, although Saturday's 54km stage from Bergerac to Perigueux will be the last one to hold any concerns for Nibali. He leads by over seven minutes from Thibaut Pinot of France and will be unchallenged on Sunday's traditional final stage on the Champs-Elysees.

Leader Vincenzo Nibali stayed out of trouble through the vineyards of south-west France © Getty Images
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