Tag Archives: Champs-Elyeese

Groenewegen takes the unofficial sprinters world championship; Froome wins the Tour

groenewegen-paris

It all went to script today. You know the drill if you've seen this before. The champagne pictures on the roll in to Paris for Team Sky. The yellow, green, polka-dot and white jersey wearers photographed together. A pretend attack by Mikel Landa on Romain Bardet, but never any intention of anything real. And then a criterium around the streets of Paris to decide the unofficial sprinters world championship.

And it was Dylan Groenewegen who won it. Close on several sprint stages already, he got the biggest sprint win of all today. Second was Andre Greipel. His long streak of winning a stage at every Grand Tour he had entered, dating back to the 2007 Vuelta, was over. A disappointing Tour for the big German who came fast in the sprint but left it a little too late.

Continue reading Groenewegen takes the unofficial sprinters world championship; Froome wins the Tour

André Greipel keeps his streak alive…Chris Froome wins his 3rd Tour de France

They call the final stage into Paris, and the charge up the Champs-Élysées, the sprinters World Championships, and rightly so. It’s the most spectacular bunch gallop of the lot and the one that every sprinter wants to win…and one of the most satisfying to win at that. Partly because of where it is and partly because of what race it is, but also because you’ve survived 21 stages, several mountain ranges and everything else that comes with a Tour de France to earn the right to partake in it.

It’s why someone like Mario Cippolini, regarded by many as one of the greatest sprinters of all time, never won here. He couldn’t make it through all twenty stages before hand to get the opportunity. Mark Cavendish won four stages this year, but he never made it across the Alps and so he didn’t get the chance either.

Cavendish, of course, has been here before however. He won on this wide cobbled boulevard four straight times between 2009 and 2012 and would surely have been the favourite this time had he made it. Instead it was a fourth straight German win, this time by André Greipel, who won it for the second straight year to go with the two won by Marcel Kittel in 2013 and 2014.

And the winning list here is a roll call of some of the sports greatest sprinters: Freddy Maertens (1981); Jean-Paul van Poppel (1988); Johan Museeuw (1990); Olaf Ludwig (1992); Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, finally in 1993 after his unforgettable crash in the 1991 sprint (and also a winner in 1995); Tom Steels (1998), Robbie Mcewen (1999 and 2002), Tom Boonen (2004), and of course Cavendish and his German pals over the past eight years. Cippolini being one of the few absentees.

There has of course been years in which the sprinters had their party spoiled. It’s almost sacrilege in today’s age to dare to stay away from the annual small group of attackers and hold the sprinters off, but sometimes it does happen, including for three straight years in the late 1970s when Alain Meslet, Gerrie Knetemann and Bernard Hinault all took victories. American Jeff Pierce did it in 1987, Eddy Seigneur in 1994 and Alexander Vinokourov in 2005, and you could say we’re due another, but with the advent of modern sprint trains and tactics and race radios, the likelihood grows smaller each year and it was never likely to happen today either.

The break, which went clear on the early laps of Pairs after the now traditional go-slow procession through the French countryside to the Champs-Élysées, was reeled in with plenty of time for the sprinters to position themselves for the dash out of the Place de la Concorde and up to the line. Alexander Kristoff looked good for a bit, but went too early; Peter Sagan came on strong, but went too late; and it was Greipel who timed it to perfection and kept his streak alive of winning a stage in every Grand Tour he’s taken part in (11 in total; 21 wins) since the 2008 Giro.

Further back, off the rear of the peloton, came Team Sky as a collective. Spread out across the width of the finishing straight, arms around one another, soaking in the moment and the enormity of their achievement, Chris Froome in yellow and the winner of the Tour de France for a third time.

All that was left was the pomp and ceremony: podium presentations for each of the jersey winners, the final podium for the top three in which Chris Froome was joined by Romain Bardet and Nairo Quintana, and then a kind and gracious speech by Froome.

And then it was all over for another year. Hard to believe really. Come and gone, just like that. I’ll let the dust settle and then come back with a review of it all.

Unofficial sprinters World Championships 2016:

1. André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) in 2h43’08”

2. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)

3. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) all s.t.

Final general classification:

1. Chris Froome (Sky) in 89h04’48”

2. Romain Bardet (AGR2 La Mondiale) @ 4’05”

3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) @ 4’21”

4. Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExhange) @ 4’42”

5. Richie Porte (BMC) @ 5’17”

6. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) @ 6’16”

Greipel makes it four while Froome makes his win official

Stage 21: Sèvres > Paris Champs-Elysees, 109.5km

The final stage into Paris is always a procession, at least until they get to the Champs-Elysees, though this year they took that procession to a new level, rolling along at speeds that your granny could muster as the driving rain combined with tired legs from the 20 devastating stages that had come before left nobody with the desire to move quickly until they had to. And then, when push came to shove, André Greipel moved quickest of them all, again.

That driving rain was so bad that race officials decided the times towards the general classification would be taken on the first trip over the finishing line, leaving the circuit racing up and down the Champs-Elysees to those wanting to risk their necks and fight for the stage win in what is the unofficial sprinters world championship. As it turns out they all raced those laps anyway, despite the fear for the absurd sight of everyone, baring a handful of sprinters teams, sliding off the back and touring their way around Paris until they had concluded their quota of laps.

And everyone made it to the first passage over that finishing line before the pace began to hot up, though Chris Froome of all people was the one who almost ran into disaster. During the usual rigmarole of pictures of Froome holding champagne, pictures of the jersey winners riding at the front together, and pictures of the winners team riding arm in arm, Froome was almost brought down when team-mate Richie Porte, who had proven so valuable to him the day before, almost lost his balance when attempting to ride with no hands in order to pose for that team picture.

Disaster averted and onto the Champs-Elysees, Froome was safe and only a couple of mechanical issues — one of which seen a bag trapped in his real wheel forcing a bike change — got in his way, though the official time had already been accounted for. Another moment of madness came on the final lap when a protester took to the route and stood with his arms out stretched as the on rushing peloton swept around him. Miraculously nobody hit him and everyone got home safely.

So it was over to the sprinters to decide the stage, once a couple of forlorn hopes had made their attempt to spoil the fun only to be reeled in, and who else should take the win but Greipel? Far and away the best sprinter in this years Tour, taking his fourth stage win. He beat Brian Coquard into second and the strong Alexander Kristoff into third. Peter Sagan never got close enough and an ill Mark Cavendish was way back in sixth on what used to be his stage.

A minute or so behind, though unofficially, came the Sky team, once again arm in arm but this time with a more secure looking Richie Porte. And in the middle…Chris Froome. In his Yellow jersey and as champion for the second time; the first British man to win the Tour on two occasions after Sir Bradley Wiggins had become the first Brit to win it just three years ago.

So after a savage 3,360.3km raced at brutal 39.64km/h in which just 16 men finished within an hour of the race winner Froome, all that was left was the pomp and ceremony on the podiums and then the after party. As he stood on the top step with the Champs-Elysees sweeping up to the Arc de Triomphe behind him, Froome gave a short but poignant speech. “This is a beautiful country and it hosts the biggest annual sporting event on the planet. To win the 100th edition is an honour”, he said after thanking numerous people from his team-mates to his family. “This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time.” It was all he needed to say and it highlighted once more the class of the man to show such grace given what he had gone through on the road to winning this 2015 Tour de France.

This is a beautiful country and it hosts the biggest annual sporting event on the planet. To win the 100th edition is an honour… this is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time,” he said from the podium.

Result: Final classement:
1. Greipel (TLS) in 2h 49′ 41″

2. Coquard (EUC)

3. Kristoff (KAT)

4. Boasson Hagen (MTN)

5. Demare (FDJ)

6. Cavendish (EQS) all s.t.

1. Froome (SKY) in 84h 46′ 14″

2. Quintana (MOV) + 1′ 12″

3. Valverde (MOV) + 5′ 25″

4. Nibali (AST) + 8′ 36″

5. Contador (TCS) + 9′ 48″

6. Gesink (TLJ) + 10′ 47″

The predictable final day

Stage 21: Évry to Paris Champs-Élysées, 137.5km. Flat.

The slow procession of bikes with hand shakes and clinks of champagne glasses followed by a ramping up of the speed onto the streets of Pairs and the final bunch sprint was inevitable, it always is. The closing ceremony of the big event with a little bit of fun at the end; like a Sunday club run in which a few lads have a dig at the speed signs before rolling home.

And yet a magical day anyway…the Eiffel Tower,  Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre; all as the backdrop for the greatest crit on earth. A few protagonists will try and get away to spice things up before the fastest men in the world get their reward for hauling their big frames over the mountains.

It all started three weeks ago on the dales of Yorkshire, England and ended on the smooth cobbles of the  Champs-Élysées. So different in many ways, and yet the result was still the same: A sprint victory for Marcel Kittel, the nailed on fastest man in the world now.

It’s a day the rest of the bunch get to celebrate their completion of the tour. Stay upright and don’t make some catastrophic mistake that will end all your hard work now. Lieuwe Westra knows this all too well having abandoned in Paris in last years Tour and second place man, Jean-Christophe Peraud almost came to the same fate when he crashed today only for Nibali to control the bunch and let him back on again. Nobody would want to see him lose his podium position in that manor.

Rather it is a day to enjoy the sights and the sounds and roll over the line after the sprinters with a satisfied look on your face or even your hands in the air. Vincenzo Nibali didn’t even raise his arms as you thought he might. Instead his Astana team-mates patted him on the back, finally free of the burden of looking after their leader in this rolling pack of 164 that made it home to Paris.

Then there is the endless parade of riders to the podium. Not everyone gets to go up there and collect their completion medal, but it’s not far off it. The stage winner, all the jersey winners, the most combatitive rider prize (Alessandro De Marchi), the winning team, and then the podium finishers. Lots of flowers, lots of podium girls, loads of Bernard Hinault, and plenty of cheers.

Nibali was the happiest man of the lot, no doubt, but the proudest? Well how do you measure such an individual accolade? Something tells me Cheng Ji, the first Chinese man ever to ride the Tour, and as such the first to finish it, will be just as proud as Nibali tonight despite finishing 6 hours, 2 minutes and 24 seconds behind him as Lanterne Rouge in dead last.

And then it’s all over. Like a three week Christmas Day that suddenly ends on New Years morning and the realisation that the fun is all over, that it’s back to the real world again for another year. Sure there’s the Vuelta, the Worlds, the Giro di Lombardia and then, next spring, the Spring Classics and the Giro, but what’s that old stupid cliche: The tour’s the tour?

I’ll now go and try throw together some review of the whole thing, some thoughts on it all and try put it into some kind of context with which to look back on…or at the very least give some favorite moments! Then it’ll be the next stage of the tour: Tour withdrawal. Into the decompression chamber once more to help with my integration back into regular society!

Result:
1. Kittel (GIA) in 3h20’50”
2. Kristoff (KAT)
3. Navardauskas (GRS)
4. Greipel (LTB)
5. Renshaw (OPQ)
6. Eisel (SKY) all s.t.

Overall:
1. Nibali (AST) in 89h59’06”
2. Peraud (ALM) +7’37”
3. Pinot (FDJ) +8’15”
4. Valverde (MOV) +9’40”
5. Van Garderen (BMC) +11’24”
6. Bardet (ALM) +11’26”
7. Konig (TNE) +14’32”
8. Zubeldia (TFR) +17’57”
9. Ten Dam (BEL) +18’11”
10. Mollema (BEL) +21’15”

Points:
1. Sagan (CAN) 431 pts
2. Kristoff (KAT) 282 pts
3. Coquard (EUC) 271 pts

King of the Mountains:
1. Majka (TCS) 181 pts
2. Nibali (AST) 168 pts
3. Rodriguez (KAT) 112 pts

Yong rider:
1. Pinot (FDJ) in 90h07’21”
2. Bardet (ALM) +3’11”
3. Kwiatkowski (OPQ) +1h13’40”

Teams:
1. AG2R La Mondiale in 270h27’02”
2. Belkin Pro Cycling +34’46”
3. Movistar Team +1h06’10”

Combatitive:
De Marchi (CAN)

Cav beaten on Champs-Elysses; Froome seals the deal

It was the usual run in to Paris in so many ways, but then, in so many other ways it was very unique. Sure there was the usual moments of the various jersey winners posing for their picture at the front of the final stages roll-out, sure there was the obligatory glass of champagne for the Yellow jersey on the outskirts of Paris, and sure the stage still finished with its crit up and down the Champs-Elyeese, but then there was all the new stuff: Finishing at dusk, going around the Arc de Triomphe and someone not called Mark Cavendish winning the stage.

As ever the stage was a slow one to begin with. Everyone was celebrating the fact they had made it through three weeks of hard racing and nursing a few heavy heads and stomachs from their rare treat of junk food and an extra glass or two of wine the night before given the real work had been completed. That jersey picture was taken, the glass of champagne drank, and even Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez — second and third in this tour — spent about ten minutes on the front of the peloton trying to light a cigar.

It was a parade, a closing ceremony if you will, and everyone was reveling in the moment that they had made it. For Froome it was the chance to realise his dream of winning the race, for Sagan it was enjoying the repeat of the Green jersey, for many others it was the satisfaction that they had simply finished it. Take Canada’s Svein Tuft. A 36-year old veteran cyclist who was riding his first Tour. He finished dead last as the 2013 Lanterne Rouge. His job was as a domestique: He worked for the team, he helped them win the team-time-trial, he spent time on the front of the peloton relentlessly over the first week when his Orica GreenEdge team were passing the Yellow jersey among themselves, and he suffered over the mountains. Finishing last isn’t a disgrace in the Tour. It’s respected because you still finished and so he too could enjoy the moment.

Still, none of them could let their guard down entirely. While the ride into Paris might be a traditional ceasefire, once they arrived onto the famous streets of the Champs-Élysées, the gloves come off again and the racing started for real, one last time. Don’t get dropped, don’t crash, make sure you cross the line at the end of the nine laps because if you don’t, the last three weeks have been for nothing. For Froome he needed to make sure he didn’t get caught out in an accident outside the 3 kilometres to go banner which could have seen him lose time. It was unlikely but it could happen and not until inside that marker could he truly throw his arms up. Indeed, he chose to do this by sitting back with his team-mates and crossing the line with them, altogether, arms around one another. It cost him 43 seconds on his podium rivals but that’s a time-loss that won’t bother him at all.

So spare a thought for Lieuwe Westra who was an example of why it isn’t over until you cross the white line in Paris. He spent the morning in the sunshine as the celebrations went on around him, ambling his way towards Paris at a pace that even I could keep with, but when the racing got hot the German was shelled out the back, suffering from an illness contracted during his trip through the Alps, the finish coming a day too late. The Champs-Élysées had become his boulevard of broken dreams. He fell back and abandoned. 3,354 kilometres completed, a mere 38 left to go. He goes home a DNF, albeit one who technically still made it to Paris.

The race went on. The usual small break went clear but never got more than a few seconds up the Avenue before eventually being reeled in just in time for the sprinters to have their moment … their reward for suffering over the mountains to make it here.

And for the first time in years it really was a showdown of the best sprinters in the world. Mark Cavendish looking to win for a fifth straight time on this stage, Marcel Kittel looking to make it four stage wins, Andre Greipel looking for his second, and Peter Sagan hoping to do what Cavendish did last in 2011 and win into Paris with the Green jersey on his shoulders.

It looked good for Cavendish all through that last lap. His team took to the front as the bunch swept through the tunnel under the Louvre. His leadout train were well set, but then on the inside came their nemesis, Argos-Shimano. Kittel was being set up in a way that only Cavendish normally is in Paris and when the Omega Pharma Quickstep rider on the front of the race swung off, Gert Steegmans wasn’t there to take it up. As they swept into the Place de la Concorde, Steegmans noticing he was tucked on someone elses wheel, moved aside and Cavendish was left to take it on himself. By now Argos-Shimano had seized control and blazed through that final forty-five degree corner like the trains of Cavendish normally do. His rivals had learned how he did it and were now employing it against him. Kittel was second wheel as he got the sling shot out of the corner towards the line. From that point he was on the front.

That’s how Cavendish has won it four times, but this time he was having to come from behind, on the inside, 150 metres from the line with Kittel and Greipel already in front of him. No bother to a pre-2013-Tour version of Cavendish. There was time for the second kick that would drive him past for the win, but the kick wasn’t there. He couldn’t get past Greipel never mind Kittel and the young German took his forth stage victory in this Tour cementing himself as the new fastest sprinter in the sport.

It won’t sit easy with Cavendish but rest assured he’ll bounce back. In 2014 his ‘train’ should be better polished and with the addition of his old leadout man, Mark Renshaw, they could be ready to deliver him to his fifth Paris victory, but for now there’s a new kid on the block and there’s multiple sprint trains to overcome.

All that was left was the prize presentations and what a show the Tour and Paris put on. The Arc de Triomphe was lit up like never before. Light video’s, digital fire works, and shining Yellow as Chris Froome took to the podium to recieve his final Yellow jersey, surrounded by past five time champions, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain. Other five times winner, Jacques Anquitel is dead, and former seven times winner turned no-times winner, Lance Armstrong was the uninvited ghost hovering over it.

“This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time,” said Froome at the end of his eloquent and pre-prepared podium speech. And with that, we hope for Froome’s sake and sanity, the ghost of Armstrong past — which he was clearly referencing — was exorcised and the partying could begin.

What a Tour, what a finale, and what am I going to do now?