PARIS — Vincenzo Nibali put his lungs and legs to work one last time, marching up to the winner's podium of the Tour de France and sighing deeply before the Italian anthem echoed over the Champs-Elysees.
Chants of "Vin-cen-zo!" rang across the famed avenue for the Sicilian, 29, who dominated the race nearly from the start three weeks ago and Sunday became the first Italian to win cycling's greatest race since Marco Pantani in 1998.
Marcel Kittel of Germany won Stage 21 in a sprint, his fourth victory this year. Nibali cruised in 24 seconds later, easily retaining a lead of more than seven minutes on his closest rival. He received pats on the back, kissed his wife and infant daughter, and was mobbed by cameras.
"Now that I find myself on the highest step on the Champs-Elysees podium, it's more beautiful than I ever imagined," Nibali, the Arc de Triomphe behind him, told the crowd. "I've never been this moved in all my life."
As he stepped down from the podium, Nibali hurled the winner's bouquet into the crowd.
Nibali, who calls himself "a flag-bearer of anti-doping," said his success came through pinpoint focus on this race as the season began and opportunistic attacks in which he was able to nibble seconds on his rivals. There were no eye-popping performances, as was the case when doping was so prevalent.
The Astana team leader is the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours: France, Italy and Spain.
Nibali won four stages, a feat not equaled by a Tour winner since Lance Armstrong won five a decade ago. The Italian wore the yellow jersey for all but two stages since Stage 1. His 7-minute, 37-second margin over French runnerup Jean-Christophe Peraud equals that of Armstrong over Swiss rider Alex Zulle in 1999, a result nullified because of doping.