So after three weeks of unrelenting pedalling through France, the obligatory Café ride to Paris signals the end of this edition of Le Tour de France 2014. From yellow jersey to lanterne rouge, each rider who has survived another legendary Tour deserves a huge round of applause and a well deserved rest from the saddle.
Some still maintain that the day’s leisurely attitude undermines any reasoning to have this extra stage after the year’s champion has been crowned in the mountains. Yet it still remains the iconic image when selling the tour, the fastest men in the world hurtling past Parisian landmarks in the name of taking the most prestigious Grand Tour stage win. The fact it ends in the capital has come to be seen as a necessary requirement and would feel truly foreign should the riders end well before the Paris skyline comes into view.
All eyes are on Marcel Kittel again today, the new sprint king seems destined to dominate this short stretch of cobbles for the rest of his career. Though he looked far from fresh after surviving the mountains, his team are the best when it comes to lead-outs and all being well, he should be delivered to the line in first place.
André Greipel certainly has the raw power to win this and appeared to cope with the major climbs better than some of the other fast men. Yet he seems to fall short because of his rivals benefiting from better organised lead-outs, the big German needs to hope for a disorganised bunch kick if he wishes to win today.
The French will be pinning their hopes upon Bryan Coquard and Arnaud Demaré for a national win upon the Champs Élysées. The former has been the ever present fly in the ointment for Peter Sagan during the intermediate sprints and the latter has been almost anonymous in the tour so far. It is very difficult to judge what form Demaré is in exactly, but Coquard will no doubt be amongst the sprinters with his usual wingman Kévin Reza.
Given the apparent tiredness of the pure sprinters, it may well be the day for two dark horses known for their strong man credentials rather than pure pace. Alexander Kristoff has capitalised twice this year on other’s fatigue or disorganisation, it would come as little surprise should he push the German powerhouses to the line. Peter Sagan is another man who may capitalise today as he attempts to avoid sharing in the ignominy of Thor Hushovd’s Green Jersey winning Tour without taking a single stage win.
Keep your eyes peeled for Jens Voigt who will be retiring from professional racing after today’s stage finishe. It would come as no surprise should he be afforded a farewell lap of honour or decides to instigate a breakaway to ensure his kamikaze attacks are never forgotten by the bunch.