AFTER three long and tortuous weeks around France, the Tour is coming to an end in style, with the now infamous finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
But while the glory of that final stage
win is still up for grabs, for those riders who have chasing the general
classification, the tour is over. And that means that for the second year
running 'God Save the Queen' will be ringing out over the Paris skyline
as tour celebrates another British win.
Chris Froome has proven to be the strongest
rider, despite some serious challenges over the last couple of days. Victory
at Ax-3-Domaines and Mont Ventoux proved he could handle himself in the
mountains and his performances in the Individual Time Trials, where he
finished 2nd and 1st showed his all round ability.
He still has to finish of course but
the final stage is for the majority of the field, and not just for Froome,
a celebratory ride through the streets of the capital. Expect the almost
obligatory victorious team shot as well as glasses of champagne being quaffed!
The race always finishes along the Champs-Elysees,
only the starting point changes. This year for the 100th edition we are
staring at the Palace of Versailles. The only changes for the centennial
race are that the race is going to be run in the evening to accommodate
the planned fireworks display after the finish and instead of turning in
front of the Arc de Triomphe, we are actually going around it for the first
While it is a celebration for most,
there are some for whom this stage means a huge amount. We've not spoken
about them for over a week now but they're back. The sprinters!
And one in particular will be chomping
at the bit.
For the last four years there has only
been one man with his arms in the air at the end of this stage and he will
be keen to extend that marvellous winning streak to five.
The Manx Missile has been unstoppable
in recent years as he has won with aplomb. In 2010 his winning margin was
so much that his leadout man, Mark Renshaw finished second. Last year it
was the yellow jersey himself, Sir Bradley Wiggins, that led him through
the Place de la Concorde and onto victory.
However this could be the year where it ends.
He's not been as prolific as normal
in this tour. Marcel Kittel, who is arguably the fastest man in the peloton
at the moment, and Andre Greipel have both got the better of him and
in Stage 12 Kittel actually came around him in the last 250m to win, something
that has never happened before in the Tour de France.
Speeds are always high around here,
and I mean incredibly high, which means sprinters teams need to be
strong and fast to get their man to the front of affairs. Argos-Shimano
for Kittel and Lotto-Belisol for Greipel are probably the strongest leadout
trains in the bunch. Cav's team, Omega-Pharma-Quickstep, are good, any
team with Tony Martin will never be shy of a few Watts and kph! But they
have lacked the cohesion at times to mount a strong challenge.
And even when they did get it almost
spot on like into Tours, Cavendish hasn't had the speed.
But one thing that won't be missing
is the desire. He knows what it takes to win around here and will be gunning
for this. Will it be enough to defeat Kittel and Greipel? Time will tell
but favourites for the win will definitely be these three.
It would be wrong to mention the King
of the sprint stages and not mention the Green Jersey. Peter Sagan has
taken this title for the second successive year, quite simply because of
his consistency. He would love to take the win here but I think he will
have to settle for top 5.
For an outsider look towards Alexander
Kristoff. The big Norwegian has been due a big result since finishing
second on the opening stage. He is a powerful sprinter which you need to
be here, it's 400m from the corner on the Place de la Concorde to the line,
so if you can hold your speed over a long period in time, you stand a chance.
It's been a fabulous tour, it deserves
a fabulous finish. And under the twilight of Paris, it will get it!
As this is the last preview piece for the Tour I just wanted to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to
everybody who has read this and for all the very nice comments.
you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Cycling
is a wonderful sport, from the colour and scenery, to the drama of the racing
and the respect of these supreme athletes. Hopefully these blogs have helped
with your enjoyment.
The Tour de France isn't the only race
however so I'll be back in August with a daily preview of the last Grand
Tour of the year, the Vuelta a'Espana. For those who have never seen it
it's another 3 week race but with a lot more mountains! Always exciting
and full of surprises.
Hope to see you then!