This year’s Tour de France ends with the three best climbers on the final podium. Everybody knew it would be a race for the climbers and it really was. Alberto Contador didn’t have the legs this year and he only finishes fourth overall - surprisingly enough, a fair result after the last das in the Alps. It’s probably only Alejandro Valverde who can look back a feel he didn’t end where he deserved.
Now it’s time for Paris and this year’s finish will be spectacular. The 100th edition of the Tour de France ends with an evening stage in the French capital and we are in for a real treat. The riders may not like the late finish but for the TV-viewers it will be great.
The stage starts at Palace of Versailles and finishes 133.5 km later on Champs-Élysées, most likely with a bunch sprint. For the first time in many years, there are two categorized climbs on the menu this final day. The first one is Côte de Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse and after 33.5 km the riders will pass the Jacques Anquetil monument on the top of Côte de Châteaufort. We will probably see Polka Dot winner Nairo Quintana first over the climb showing off his new jersey for the first time in the race.
As always, the real action won’t start until the riders hit Champs-Élysées. From here on, it’s “race on” and the 10 laps will be completed in a furious pace. To celebrate this 100 Years Anniversary, the route takes the riders around Arc de Triomphe instead of turning just before as we have seen in the past. The sprinters’ teams will try to control the race but they also have to save a little energy for the final. The leadout trains have never been more important than they are this year and it will be crucial to have enough manpower left for the final.
Mark Cavendish has won the last four years in a row and he is the favorite again this year. Compared to Marcel Kittel he has a lot more experience and he knows he can deliver after three hard weeks. Omega Pharma Quickstep still have all nine riders in the race and that will be an important factor. Argos-Shimano had to say goodbye to Tom Veelers just two days before Paris and it’s now up to John Degenkolb and Koen de Kort to leadout Marcel Kittel. Actually, the key word may not be leadout but instead deliver. Usually Kittel wins after a perfect leadout but he has come from behind in all his three stage wins in this Tour. Compared to Greipel, Kittel doesn’t seem to need a strong leadout and that favors him compared to his German compatriot.
Lotto-Belisol lost Marcel Sieberg the other day and that means they won’t be able to take the lead with 4 riders on the last kilometer as they have done earlier in the race. Greipel hasn’t been able to come from behind in the Tour this year and with only Roelandts and Henderson I doubt he will be able to win on Champs-Élysées.
The last of the four big sprinters is Peter Sagan. He has already won the Green Jersey and he now longer needs just to “cruise” into Top5 on the stage. Last year Peter Sagan finished second on the stage and said he could have won without having to close the big gap after Greipel had problems with his bike. Sagan may have enough raw power to take the win on the final meters but against Kittel and Cavendish, it will be very difficult.
This time my joker is Alexander Kristoff. He has been left alone to do the sprints the whole race but now Katusha can finally use riders to help deliver him on the right wheel. These power sprints are close to impossible to win without a team around you and that’s why we haven’t seen Kristoff in Top3 except for the very first stage. The morale must be high at Katusha right now after Purito secured a spot on the final podium and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kristoff finishes like he started with a top performance.
It’s difficult to pick between Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel for the stage win. Cavendish has the experience but Kittel has proven to be the fastest on the final meters. Omega Pharma Quickstep will most likely have two riders in front of Cavendish heading into the last corner and I’m sure Cavendish is to take revenge after he missed out on Yellow on stage 1. Therefore, the Manxman is my favorite.
Thank you for reading my previews during the Tour!
Favorite: Mark Cavendish
Joker: Alexander Kristoff
For live race coverage go to Steephill.tv
Just like during the Giro d’Italia this year, I once again have the chance to bring you daily “Fly Through” previews from Global Cycling Network. Here is Stage 21: