Despite predicting the victory of Tadej Pogačar yesterday, it was still a surprise to see him go further still, producing a result to seize the yellow jersey at the final time of asking. Since his national time trial victory in June over his compatriot Primož Roglič, it was clear that there was a huge performance to expect at Le Tour de France and that is exactly what came to fruition.
As a note, it is perhaps most bizarre that this is seen as a shock by many, despite the fact that Pogačar finished third at his debut grand tour (La Vuelta a España) only a year ago, where he won three incredibly tough stages in the process.
Attention shall however be upon the sprinters today, as the finale of this year’s race is concluded by a gallop down the Champs-Élysées as ever, providing the sprinters with one last chance to snatch a victory. There is not a great deal to be said of the course, as the stage takes a familiar form, stretching 122km from Mantes-La-Jolie to Paris.
After the champagne and team photos, the sprinters teams will come to the fore once the laps around the capital begin, lining it up for another mad dash down the famous cobbled boulevard. It will be interesting to see who has survived the recent rigours of the mountains best, as some are likely to have kept their powder dry for precisely this opportunity.
There is no doubt that Sam Bennett shall wish to seal his debut green jersey victory with a win on the Parisian streets, cementing his place as the fastest man over the duration of this three week race around France. His team will be fully committed to setting the Irishman up for glory here, eager to be crowning his achievement in style on the final day.
Though it was a strong start to this year’s Tour de France by Caleb Ewan he does look to have been hit hard by 2020’s barrage of mountains and limited transition stages to recover upon. Regardless, he did win here last year and is respected because of that fact, yet will need to muster his best in the absence of a convincing lead out train to win again.
This must have been a goal for Cees Bol for sometime now, as his individual capabilities and team’s prowess suggest it is within reach, but can everything finally click into place on the final day? Though Team Sunweb have picked up several victories at this year’s race, there is no hiding how poor their results have been in the sprints, despite extremely convincing team performances to place Bol ideally late on. The cobbled terrain, slight drag and need for a good lead out help to place him as a favourite, but it is rare for everything to finally click on a final stage like these.
To spin the same old record yet again, Trek-Segafredo can look to Jasper Stuyven, Edward Theuns or Mads Pedersen to lead the charge down the finishing straight. As ever, it seems most likely that Pedersen shall get the nod, on a finale which suits him best given the ‘mano a mano’ nature we often see on this iconic sprinting showdown.
Maybe Peter Sagan can finally win a stage at this year’s Tour de France, though there is little to suggest he has the speed to truly threaten others likely to feature. It has certainly been a frustrating campaign for the green jersey, and unfortunately for him, it does not look to be remedied anytime soon.
Perhaps we neatly bookend this year’s race with another victory for Alexander Kristoff, who is apparently still here despite his anonymity as of late, and always goes well on the grisly cobblestones of Paris. Given the need for UAE Team Emirates to protect the yellow jersey, he might be left to his own devices late on, though that has rarely prevented the Norwegian strongman from collecting wins in the past.
Perhaps the most interesting name to mention is Wout van Aert, who might be the tonic Jumbo-Visman require after the capitulation of Primož Roglič on the final slopes of yesterday’s time trial. The reigning Belgian time trial champion performed extremely well, showing little sign of fatigue and would be anticipated to compete well in the rough and ready nature of the Champs-Élysées.
Others to consider are Niccolo Bonifazio, Matteo Trentin, Luka Mezgec, Edvald Boasson Hagen, André Greipel and Christophe Laporte.
1st Sam Bennett 2nd Wout van Aert 3rd Alexander Kristoff