Vincenzo Nibali

Week 45 (26 July - 1 August 2014)

Along the cobbled, windy, viciously steep, soaking wet and gloriously sunny road to winning the 2014 Tour de France, Vincenzo Nibali provided the cycling world with a study in how to dominate a bike race – but he also gave a faultless display in how to allow one's own personality to emerge through an oppressive media glare.

The dominance of Nibali and his Astana Pro Team meant the Italian wore the leader's yellow jersey for 19 of the 21 stages on this year's Tour. Tour de France custom dictates that whoever wears the maillot jaune answers reporters' questions after a stage, and so Nibali spent a good deal of his rare time off the bike standing in the middle of a media scrum.

With cycling still recovering from successive drug scandals over the past 20 years, being in this position is rarely a walk in the park, with the leader having to defend his innocence, his team's innocence, as well as that of everyone else in the race's innocence – and the reputation of cycling in general.

If it wasn't badly disguised questions on doping, Nibali had to field questions suggesting his success was down to the early elimination of his main rivals Chris Froome and Alberto Contador.

But Nibali, the son of a video and photo shop owner from the town of Messina in Sicily, remained serene throughout, answering journalists' questions directly, calmly stressing his commitment to being a clean rider and never once losing his cool.

Compared with recent winners of the Tour such as Bradley Wiggins or Cadel Evans, that coolness is even more impressive.

Wiggins, the definition of cool in the British media's eyes, vented an expletive-ridden rant when questioned about doping during his ultimately victorious 2012 Tour. For Evans, a year previously, the yellow jersey turned the normally affable Australian into a crazed and haunted figure, once physically lashing out at the media as they hounded him with questions.

But in Nibali there was none of this. And futile to fight against Nibali's nature, the media started enquiring about it instead.

By the time the Tour entered its final days, the media was awash with Nibali's story: a boy brought up watching videos of races his father had taped, leaving home at 15 to join a cycling programme in Tuscany and then slowly and steadily climbing through the ranks to become only the sixth man in the history of the sport to complete a career slam of the three grand Tours – France, Italy and Spain.

Nibali not only won the Tour de France, he also won over the cycling community. He made himself the story: not forcibly, but by being polite, composed and up front.

He is also able to quote Leonardo da Vinci, which always helps:

"I like to leave space for imagination (in cycling). That's what makes the difference. As Leonardo da Vinci said: 'Science and detail is not enough, you also need heart and passion.'"

Nibali has those qualities to spare, and now the world knows it as well.

Photo: Flickr