After completing the full set of Grand Tour podiums by finishing in third place at the Tour de France on Sunday, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) now has his sights set on joining an even more elite group by winning the three great stage races outright.
"The big stage races have a special fascination, I'd like to win all three of them," said Nibali. "I've already won the Vuelta [in 2010 - ed.], while at both the Giro and Tour, I've shown that I'm capable of being a protagonist and finishing on the podium."
In a race dominated by the collective might of Team Sky, Nibali was the man who put up the stiffest resistance, attacking in both the Alps and the Pyrenees, although he was unable to make any inroads into the losses he sustained in the Besançon time trial.
Given that there were over 100 kilometres of time trialling in this year's Tour, however, Nibali admitted that finishing on the podium on such a course was already a victory of sorts.
"Considering that I'm not exactly a time triallist like Wiggins and Froome, it needed a good performance to finish in the top three in Paris," Nibali said.
"It's hard to describe the emotion of arriving in Paris, but it gives you goose bumps. The crowds were out for the whole course. It was wonderful, just an incredible festival."
Heavily linked with a switch to Astana at the end of the current campaign, it seems all but certain that Nibali will not be wearing Liquigas colours in 2013, although it remains to be seen if he will focus his attentions on the Giro d'Italia or the Tour.
Speaking as he freewheeled back down the Champs-Élysées on Sunday afternoon, Nibali was happy simply to dwell on the experience of becoming the first Italian to mount the Tour podium since his Liquigas-Cannondale teammate Ivan Basso in 2005.
"It was something really special," he said. "Before I went up on the podium, I was standing at the side looking up at it from below and watching Bradley, and then when I was able to climb up there with him, it was a bit of an indescribable emotion. To race here is really an incredible stage."
Nibali's teammate Peter Sagan was somewhat more matter-of-fact when he recounted his promenade into Paris in the green jersey of points classification winner. The 22-year-old Slovak has claimed three stage wins in this Tour and now has as many second-place finishes after he was beaten by Mark Cavendish (Sky) in the sprint on Sunday.
"I didn't really feel the emotion of finishing in Paris, maybe because everybody spoke to me so much about it beforehand," he said. "Ivan [Basso] even told me that on the Champs-Élysées you don't feel pain, but in the finale we were going at 60kph and you need strength in your legs for that."
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