(ANSA) - Paris, July 28 - Vincenzo Nibali said he was having trouble taking in becoming the seventh Italian to have won the cycling's biggest race, the Tour de France.
"What has happened is really big," the 29-year-old Sicilian, who is nicknamed the "shark", said before entering a Paris disco for a celebration with family, friends and teammates late on Sunday. "When I get back home I realise better. Winning the Tour was a dream that was almost impossible to make true". The Astana rider wore the yellow leader jersey for all but two stages of this year's race, four of which he won.
He had a dose of luck after crashes forced last year's champion Chris Froome and double Tour winner Alberto Contador out early on.
But he took full advantage, always finishing ahead of his rivals in the mountains, and was a worthy winner, ending the race over seven and a half minutes ahead of his nearest rival, France's Jean-Christophe Péraud.
Nibali has joined an elite club by becoming only the sixth rider to win all three of cycling's grand tours after Contador, Frenchmen Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil, fellow Italian Felice Gimondi and Belgian Eddy Merckx.
He won the Vuelta en Espana in 2010 and the Giro d'Italia last year.
The last Italian to win the Tour was Marco 'the pirate' Pantani in 1998, when he also won the Giro.
Pantani, whose career was hit by doping scandals, died aged 34 of a drugs overdose 10 years ago.