Vincenzo Nibali fought back tears as he stood on the Tour de France winner’s podium and described the moment as better than he ever expected.
Nibali completed his victory at the 2014 Tour by finishing safely in the pack on Sunday’s 21st and final stage from Evry to Paris, won by German Marcel Kittel.
“It’s the most important and the best moment, I never imagined it could feel this good because when you find yourself on this podium on the Champs Elysees, it’s unique,” said Nibali, reading a prepared statement.
“Some people might think it’s normal but I want to thank my (Astana) team because when you achieve an objective, you do so together, not just those here with me but also those back in Italy.
He dedicated the win to his wife and daughter, along with his parents.
After crossing the finish line, Nibali went straight to his wife and baby to embrace both.
By winning the final stage, German sprint king Kittel matched Nibali’s achievement of winning four stages on this Tour.
The Giant-Shimano sprinter thus equalled his feat from last year when he also won four stages – including both the first and last – and wore the yellow jersey for a day on stage two.
In the final sprint he initially looked to have been caught and passed by Alexander Kristoff before finding a second wind to power through and win.
Norwegian Kristoff, who won two previous stages, finished second with Lithuania’s Ramunas Navardauskas, who also claimed a stage, coming third.
“It was actually my strategy for the sprint,” Kittel said.
“I was meant to start not too early so when Kristoff passed me he had already had a little more time to accelerate and gain more speed.”
The day’s events started, as ever for the processional final stage, at a pedestrian pace as Nibali sipped champagne with his teammates and posed for photos with the other jersey winners.
Slovakian Peter Sagan won the green sprinters’ points jersey for the third year in a row while young Pole Rafal Majka claimed the king of the mountains polkadot jersey.
Frenchman Thibaut Pinot won the young riders’ white jersey and also finished third overall, behind compatriot Jean-Christophe Peraud.
Australia’s highest overall Tour finisher was Team Sky’s Richie Porte, who came in 23rd, 1 hour 2 minutes and 24 seconds behind Nibali.