The last stage of the Tour de France -- an 85-mile cruise into Paris -- is supposed to be a leisurely parade to celebrate the winner, and for the leader, it was. Sunday's ride was incident-free for Vincenzo Nibali, who entered the 21st stage having already been presented as the race winner by event organizers. Nibali began with a 7:52 lead, a gap that proved insurmountable for his challengers. He became the first Italian to win the Tour since 1998 and is just the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours (Spain, Italy).
In total, Nibali won four of the stages and wore the yellow leader's jersey for 19 days. His victory was made easier after two favorites, defending champion Chris Froome and three-time winner Alberto Contador, bowed out from injuries.
With the champion all but assured, Sunday's final race was an all out sprint among dozens of riders flying at speeds of up to 40 MPH. German rider Marcel Kittel ultimately took the stage, his fourth stage victory of the three-week race. He narrowly beat Alexander Kristoff down the final stretch.
"I was doubting if I can still make it. Kristoff can really hold against me, and I tried just to pass him and I think at one moment he couldn't accelerate any more," Kittel said to NBC.
As much as the eight laps around the Champs-Elysees are supposed to be a celebration, it wasn't without its fair share of excitement. Expected second-place finisher Jean-Christoph Peraud inexplicably lost his balance, causing a five-cyclist pile-up that threatened the final order. Word of the crash got up to Nibali, who appeared to help slow the pace to allow Peraud time to rejoin the peloton. Peraud finished second, while Thibaut Pinot came in third in the overall field. It's the first time in the last 30 years that two Frenchmen have finished on the podium.
American Tejay van Garderen finished fifth, 11:24 behind Nibali.