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David L. Stanley

2015 Tour de France: July 26
Stage 21 reviewed and assessed

Back to Commentary index page | 2015 Tour de France

David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). He blogs regularly for Dads Roundtable. Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories and Cycling Heroes.

STAGE 21, Sunday 26 July: Sevres to Paris; Champs-Elysees,- 67 MI/110 km

In which SKY leads a triumphant march into Paris… (cue La Marseillaise and God Save the Queen)

Today’s stage is a joyous celebration. 198 men started on Day 1, and 160 will roll onto the Champs-Elysees late Sunday afternoon. Following a tradition started in 1975, the riders will finish, typically in a high speed sprint finish, on the most beautiful street in world. That first Champs sprint was won by Walter Godefroot, who later gained a certain amount of infamy as the director of Team Telekom.

Sunday’s stage begins in the Paris suburb of Sevres. Sevres is the home of the majestic atelier in which the Tour’s porcelain cobalt blue and gold plated trophy is crafted. After racing through 30 kilometers of Parisian suburbs, the race enters the City of Light. The peloton will race 10 laps of 7 km each. The day generally culminates with the sprinters’ teams leading out their aces for the 40+ mph finish.

There have been exceptions. Wolverine (Michigan) Sports Club rider Jeff Pierce, racing for Team 7-11, escaped in 1987 and held off the field for an extra-ordinary win on the sports’ greatest arena. In 1994, another Wolverine athlete, Dearborn’s Frank Andreu racing for Motorola, escaped the field with several kilometers to go.

He was caught just before the line by the Frenchman Eddy Seigneur.

But with sprinters like Cavendish and Greipel and Bryan Coquard and green jersey winner Peter Sagan kept on ice since stage 15, I would be shocked, shocked I tell you, if the winner is not decided in a sprint.

Stage 21 race profile

Stage 21's profile

Note: Today’s breakdown is edited only for clarity. Everything else is as written in the heat of the moment.

Let’s cut to the chase.

It is pouring down hard, at 64 F. It is a good advertising day for Castelli and their Gabba rainjacket. The riders are rolling through an extended neutral zone. It has been announced by race director Thierry Gouvenou, he rode maybe 7 Tours de France, that the final times will be taken for the peloton on their first crossing over the start/finish line as they roll down the Champs-Elysees. Good safety move.

I expect that the GC teams will roll quietly at the back whilst the sprinters’ teams duke it out for the final stage win.

Cavendish is very fast on this stage, but he lost his Nº 1 man, Mark Renshaw, a few days ago. Look for Kristoff, Greipel, Cav, Coquard, in any order. Sagan is a great sprinter on the road and out of a small group, but he doesn’t have afterburner speed.

43 MI/70 KM to go. Race on!

The GC leading teams are on the front at 22 mph. So, the race is sort of on with a big swoopy turn around the Arc de Triomphe. One very cautious peloton.

33 MI/54 km to go: SKY still leads the peloton. The speed has picked up, but they are not racing full-out. There is a sprint in the Maillot Vert upcoming, but Sagan has the jersey locked up so it won’t be much of sprint. The winner does get about $1200 bucks, however.

Sky-led peloton

Sky leads the peloton

25 MI/40 km to go: Rumor (twitter) has Richie Porte to BMC. And perhaps, Cav to MTN-Qhubeka.

The rain has stopped. The race is on, mostly. It’s not single file, but telemetry says they’re going 28.

Lotto is on the front for Greipel. Sagan is glued to Andre the Giant.

Svein Tuft (OGE) is a few moments down the road. Men are taking turns putting in digs to get a few minutes of all-important TV prime time.

Back on the Start/Finish line, a workman seems to be hammering a new cobblestone into the road. Perhaps he just returned from his summer vacation.

20 MI/32 km to go: The front of the race is all single file with a serious amount of fast-twitch fiber present.

Jens Voigt reported that the workman and the cobble were related to a buried timing transponder that came unstuck.

Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) has finished another Grand Tour. That is 12 in a row.

3 each year, four years in a row. That’s a record and that’s phenomenal. Do the math-that’s about 250 hours of racing a year in the Grand Tours. Every year. Take that, Cal Ripken.

16 MI/26 km to go: 4 laps to go. A group of 3 is 20 seconds down the road.

Andrei Grivfko (Astana) is trying to bridge.

The Champs has a high and a low end. Christian Vande Velde reported that going down the Champs at crunch time, you’re going about 42-45 mph. Heading up, he says, you’re dying at 30 mph, especially when the wind kicks up. It hasn’t rained, btw, at race’s end in Paris since 1977.

12 MI/20 km to go: 3 laps to go. The group of three; Oliveira, van Bilsen, and Vachon, is out there at 34 seconds. Lotto is still at the front, but they haven’t dropped the hammer. Out the tunnel, past the Joan d’Arc statue, down the Place de la Concorde, up the Champs-I’ve been watching this since the mid-1980s, and I still get chills.

9 MI/14 km to go: 2 laps to go. The break is down to 20 seconds. Europcar helps in the chase for Bryan Coquard.

Here comes a BMC. It’s Rohan Dennis! He can motor-Hour Record.

Rohan has made it across. He has to attack after he catches his breath. Has to.

A plastic bag has blown into Froome’s rear wheel. Bike change, now, kind sir. He’ll motor-pace back up to the group. Here comes the entire SKY team back to shepherd him safely.

6 MI/9 km to go: Froome is back in the group.

The sun is shining. C’est Paris, non?

The group is 9 seconds out front; about 150 meters.

Dennis needs to jump away soon, if he’s got anything in the tank.

4.5 MI/7.5 km to go: Under the tunnel. Out the tunnel and past Joan d’Arc. 

We’ll hear the bell in a second.

Down the Champs and the bell is clanging and the French fighter jets do their rouge, bleu, et blanc smoked flyover.

4 MI/7 km to go: Van Bilsen and Rohan Dennis are still away with ten seconds in hand. Lotto-Soudal is in flight with Andre in fourth wheel. Up the hill for the last time. OGE is helping out the chase.

3 MI/5 km to go: Around the Arc and we’re heading back downhill. SKY is there, at the very back. We’re all together.

4 km: It’s a little bit mayhem at the front. Giant is on track. OGE is there. Lotto tried to maintain control but all hell has broken loose at the front. Yep, mayhem.

3 km: Cav is on Sagan’s shoulder. Taking the big sweeper onto the Place.

2 km: The sharp left. Under the tunnel. There’s Joan’s statue. Hey, Joan!

1 km: Out the tunnel, past the Ferris wheel for the last time. Sagan sits fourth wheel.

Nasty crash at the back. It’s a Trek on the deck.

Across the Place for the last time. Sagan and maybe Demare are headbutting each other for Kristoff’s wheel. The Katusha guy has a great lead-out. Forty frickin mph and these two are banging bars for a wheel. Nuts. They got some big ones.

Sagan wins the fight. He is third.

The big right hand turn coming up. Everyone’s upright.

Kristoff is first to go. He’s got a bike length.

Greipel goes!!

Geez, he’s got it.

Holy smokes-he’s going 3 mph faster than Kristoff.

Coquard is right there, he’s making a run at him.

Nope. It’s Andre. Then Coquard.

Greipel wins the sprint

Greipel wins the sprint for stage 21

Kristoff. Is that EBH? Yes, Demare. Who’s next? There’s Cav and Sagan, maybe in 6th and 7th?

What a great wheelie by Coquard-you can’t pull on your bars any harder than that.

Mon dieu!! Great sprint. So much horsepower.

Here are the non-sprinters.

Here comes Team SKY, 8 abreast, arm in arm. And the sun shines on the Champs-Elysees right behind. Perfect.

The finish order:

  1. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)
  2. Bryan Coquard (Europcar)
  3. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)
  4. Edvald Boasson-Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka)
  5. Arnaud Demare (FDJ)

The Final GC:

  1. Chris Froome (SKY) 93:19:15
  2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) @ 01:12
  3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) @ 05:25
  4. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) @ 08:36
  5. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) @ 09:48

Final podium

The final podium, from left: Quintana, Froome and Valverde

What Did We Learn Today?

1) A very emotional Andre Greipel says on the podium, “This is the most awesome place to win a bike race in the world.” He thanks everyone; his folks, his teammates, his trainers and when asked how he will celebrate, he says, “Not with water, that’s for sure!”

2) Greipel is the fastest sprinter in the world. By far. Peter Sagan is an excellent sprinter, and won the green jersey because he can get over the smaller climbs, but in a drag race, Greipel is very very fast. It will be terrific to see him later this season against a healthy Marcel Kittel.

3) How fast was the peloton in chase? Rohan Dennis was going 36 mph when he was away with van Bilsen, and the group closed down 9 seconds in less than 500 meters.

4) I’ll have a final column tomorrow; Monday, 27 July.

Random Race Fact: The French are darn good organizers when it comes to the Tour. On the bell lap, just as the bell started clanging, the French fighter jet flyover, with their red, white, and blue smoke buzzed the race in perfect synchronization. It was very cool.

Join in the conversation. Don’t miss my column tomorrow. It’ll be full of odd facts to share with your friends.

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Stanley’s Twitter is here.  I tweet early, and often.

For great live text updates of the daily stages, don’t miss LiveUpdateGuy.com

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