ARGELES-GAZOST, France (AP) A brief look at the 18th stage of the Tour de France on Thursday:
The stage: 145.5 kilometers (90 miles) from Pau to the summit finish at Hautacam, rated ”beyond category” in the Tour jargon to describe the most difficult climbs. Along the way was the famed Tourmalet climb, a 2,115-meter monster also beyond a rating.
Winner: Vincenzo Nibali. The Italian known as The Shark won his fourth stage in dominant style, dropping French climbing specialist Thibaut Pinot and leaving him to finish 1 minute, 10 seconds back in second place. Polka dot jersey holder Rafal Majka was third, 1:12 back.
Yellow jersey: Nibali. He extended his lead in the overall standings and is all but assured of victory in Paris and becoming only the sixth man to ever win all three of cycling’s Grand Tours.
Quote of the day: ”He’s probably considered the surprise of the race but I’ve known his potential for quite a while now and it’s unfolding for everyone to see.” Tinkoff-Saxo team boss Bjarne Riis, speaking of Majka.
Stat of the day: 15. The number of seconds that separate second-placed Pinot from third-place Jean-Christophe Peraud and fourth-place Alejandro Valverde, with just three stages left.
Next stage: Friday’s 19th stage is a 208.5-kilometer (130-mile) flat stage from Maubourguet north to Bergerac in the scenic Dorgogne region. One small hill 13 kilometers from the finish will likely not be enough to prevent a mass sprint finish, where Germans Marcel Kittel and Andre Griepel and Norway’s Alexander Kristoff will try to add to their haul of stage wins.