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Tour de France Stage 21: The final chapter

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Montgeron – Paris (Champs-Elysees), 103km

Le Tour de France 2015 - Stage Twenty One Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The final stage of the Tour, as is traditional, is a meander into Paris from the suburbs, in this case Montgeron. Even in a Tour as tight as this one, expect to see a lesuirely pace and plenty of photos being taken… until we hit the circuits of central Paris. You all know the drill – eight hard and fast circuits through breathtakingly pretty streets, with a final sprint towards the Arc de Triomphe along the Champs-Elysees. Breakaways may feature, but this one is for the sprinters.

Carte

Profil de l’étape

AmyBC’s Wine of the Day – As always, Champagne for Paris!

Wine: Pouillon Solera Champagne Brut Premier Cru NV

From an importer: The Pouillon family has been growing grapes in the region for over a century, but it wasn’t until 1947 when Fabrice’s grandfather, Roger Pouillon, decided to produce wine from his holdings along with the help of his wife, Bernedette, and his uncle, Louis Baulant, a well-known winemaker and consultant in the region. The estate continued to grow over succeeding decades as grape contracts expired allowing the family terroirs to be reincorporated into the Pouillon estate. James Pouillon, Fabrice’s father, joined the firm in 1964 and modernized the cellar by adding enamel-lined tanks and gyropalletes. Fabrice joined his father in 1998 after finishing degrees in both business and oenology school, and he has taken the winery in an exciting new direction. Working in the grand cru of Aÿ and throughout the Vallée de la Marne and the Montagne de Reims,

Fabrice is crafting articulate, expressive, terroir-driven wines that are vibrantly aromatic and intricate on the palate.

Did you know?

I mentioned that the Tour kicks off in Montgeron for this final stage. You might already know that Montgeron (specifically, the Café Au Reveil Matin) was the starting point for the first ever Tour, back in 1903. Want details? I think Wannabe was there (tee hee). More seriously, if you want details, Chris has reviewed a book on the proto tour, and both book and review are worth looking at.

What’s at stake?

In overall terms, not a huge amount. After stage 18, the polka dots and white jersey were wrapped up (if they weren’t already after the second week). We’d all hoped that the green jersey would be a fight to the finish following Matthews’ stirling efforts at the beginning of week three, but Kittel’s fall in stage 17 effectively handed him the jersey. Yellow, and the podium, remained close but the last meaningful chance to alter positions ended on the streets of Marseille in the stage 20 time trial.

So, this one is all about the win – but for sprinters, it is the big one. There is the “sprinter’s classic” of Paris-Tours, and some World Championships and Olympics. Milan-San Remo often goes to sprinters, and of course every stage of every Grand Tour has value. For my money, though, there isn’t anything more prestigious for a pure sprinter than a win in Paris.

Who’s going to win?

With this year’s sprinting field, it really is a question of who’s left? Cav won four in a row, but he’s gone home injured. So too has Kittel, who won the subsequent two (as well as five stages this year). Gone, also, are Sagan and Demare (and Dan McClay, who definitely, unequivocally would have won this).

Of those who are left, Matthews, Boasson Hagen, Degenkolb and Kristoff would all want a tougher finish, and the last-named is badly out of form. Groenewegen is yet to show the sort of form we might have expected of him, and neither is Bouhanni.

It is all set up wonderfully for Andre Greipel, in other words. This extraordinarily durable sprinter has a great chance to win at yet another Grand Tour. I know that we’re all used to the statistics, but one more time. He’s won 22 GT stages, including 11 in the Tour. He’s won in every Grand Tour he’s contested since 2008. He’s won in every Tour since 2011, and has won on the Champs for the last two years.

He hasn’t yet won in this Tour. Seventh consecutive year with a Tour stage? I think so.

Le Tour de France 2016 - Stage Twenty One Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
  • Note that I originally said that Feargal reviewed the proto-Tour book. This was Chris. Apologies for the error.