Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

We once again arrive at the processional stage into Paris, Chris Froome having joined the exclusive club of four time Tour de France winners, despite never truly appearing to be the strongest rider in contention for the yellow jersey. Stage 21 will be a chance to relax for the Team Sky captain and his fellow riders, the common sight of champagne flutes being passed around the group, as others share family messages to the cameramen who have stalked them since the departure in Düsseldorf. The stage itself is 103km from Montgeron to the iconic finale upon the Champs Élysées, featuring a total of eight laps around the capital, each proving more hectic than the last. Though many riders like to escape the bunch over the Parisian cobblestones, seldom do their efforts steal the win, this being a day for the sprinters to dominate. Having lost Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Marcel Kittel and Arnaud Démare during the race, it may well prove a harder to control race than previously anticipated.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 21 Preview

Contenders:

André Greipel has already been backed by his fellow sprinters to secure another victory upon the Champs Élysées, a consistent performer when it comes to this tricky stage, the German now appears to be the fastest man left at the race. Despite having lost a key component of his leadout train in the shape of Marcel Sieberg, the team still have enough in reserve to offer him a protected ride into the final decisive turn of this curtain call upon 2017’s Tour de France. Assuming he is placed into the ideal position from which to sprint from, then it is unlikely that anyone else will be able to match the speed of the ‘Gorilla’.

Nacer Bouhanni will do well to redeem his Tour de France by taking a surprise win on the final day, having had to endure a pretty torrid time throughout. Seemingly spending more time throwing punches then concentrating on the task at hand, the fiery Frenchman has spurned several opportunities at the race which looked ideal territory for him to win from. Morale is not great at Cofidis, so they could do with a win to say the least, yet it will take a lot of effort to muster something resembling a serious charge for Parisian glory today.

Alexander Kristoff is another rider who has recorded a consistent level of results on this familiar conclusion to Le Tour de France, though has been unfortunate to miss out when it comes to crossing the line first. Last week he may well have emerged as the new favourite to win, but a serious fall which catapulted him hard onto the tarmac has dented his chances. Having recorded one of the slowest times in yesterday’s time trial, it is difficult to gauge if he is really suffering badly or simply saving his efforts for a stage he still believes he can win. The technical demands, positional requirements and draining cobblestones are all typical features of a Kristoff victory, and if he has truly recovered, then expect him to be pushing for the win as ever.

Edvald Boasson Hagen finally took a well deserved stage win a couple of days ago, but will not be content with just that, as this has the potential to be another feather in the cap of the Norwegian at the end of 2017’s Tour de France. Now looking to be one of the freshest fast men still at the race, Team Dimension Data are likely to be a dominant force at the head of the peloton during the deciding laps around Paris, ensuring nobody dangerous gains too great a gap on the bunch. In terms of leadout, the Norwegian can expect to have the best on offer, though it is hard to say how hard he had to dig for his recent victory and whether they may have blunted his chances as a result.

Others expected to feature amongst the top ten on Stage 21 are Dylan GroenewegenBen SwiftMichael Matthews and John Degenkolb.

Outcome:

1st André Greipel 2nd Edvald Boasson Hagen 3rd Alexander Kristoff

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 21 PREVIEW

Course:

Once again we find ourselves reaching Paris in what seems like the blink of an eye, three weeks of racing around France has seen Chris Froome steadily ratchet up the pressure on his rivals and is now poised to be crowned Tour de France champion for the third time in his career. Stage 21 needs to be safely negotiated first however, a predominantly ceremonial 113km from Chantilly to the famous Champs-Élysées. A stage which allows the race’s remaining sprinters to stretch their legs one last time, thundering along the historic boulevard’s cobblestones as they duke it out for one of the biggest prizes the quick men can get their hands upon.

 

Tour de France Stage 21 Preview 2016

Contenders:

André Greipel has not enjoyed a great Tour de France and this will be his final chance to try and save his race this year. Though there is no doubt he has suffered in the mountains recently, the fact he now has the best leadout train by some margin will mark him out as a favourite today. This power based sprint finish is traditionally Greipel’s bread and butter type of finale, where if he gets the final few hundred meters spot on, it is hard to imagine anyone bettering him.

Marcel Kittel will be extremely motivated to add another victory upon the Champs Élysées to his palmares and is the favourite for many eyeing up the contenders on the final day. He still possesses a great leadout train, though one which has perhaps been more active in the Alps than rivals Lotto-Soudal, so fatigue may well be an issue for them in the high paced leadout.

Peter Sagan shall end today atop the podium with another green jersey to take home, but there is also a strong chance that he will need to revisit the top step as stage winner as well. He is the least fatigued of the sprinters, though does not often emerge victorious in these blistering drag races to the finish line, yet will still be confident of causing an upset. He has a great talent for following the right wheels and there is little to suggest he cannot time a perfect late surge to the line for another stage victory at this year’s race.

Alexander Kristoff will be a real danger to the likes of Kittel and Greipel today, the Norwegian potentially overlooked by some, despite his well documented ability to dominate towards the end of major races. The Katusha rider has failed to replicate his form from the previous season, though has remained a contender in the more attritional sprints at 2016’s Le Tour de France. He still has support at this late stage of the race and will be assured of a good position once the sprint for the line truly opens up.

John Degenkolb is still on the road to recovery in the wake of being struck by a car on the wrong side of the road while out training a few months ago, though still fits the bill as an ideal candidate for stage honours on the final day. There is no doubt he has the power to hurtle over the cobbles, and combined with the slight uphill drag, there is a good chance we will see him at his best once again.

Outcome:

1st Alexander Kristoff 2nd Marcel Kittel 3rd André Greipel

Le-Tour-de-France-2015-Stage-21-Preview-

Le Tour de France – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

So after three weeks and twenty stages, the peloton finally approach their intended destination of the famous Parisian avenue that is the Champs Élysées. Tradition remains on Stage 21, a contrast to a race which has started in Utrecht, included one time trial, few sprints stages and concluded the general classification the day before Paris upon Alpe d’Huez. Resisting the temptation tinker with the famous last stage of Le Tour de France has meant we still bolster a full lineup of the spiriting talent which started this race, motivated by this final gallop in Paris to haul themselves over the mountains which stood before them.

Beginning in Serves-Grand Paris Seine Ouest, the riders have been set an extremely modest 109.5km to ride in order to formally finish 2015’s Tour de France. The only climb of today and the final of the entire race is completed after 10.5km in the saddle, the Category 4 Côte de l’Observatoire lasting for 2.2km and average a simple enough 4.1% throughout. From this point onwards it is bound to be a leisurely roll into the Paris suburbs on flat terrain which must feel like some of the tour’s fastest descents after yesterday’s efforts.

The usual finishing circuits begin after they have clocked up a little under 40km of riding, crossing the line first time a short distance later and signalling the return of hostilities for the last time at this race. With its gentle drag upwards and presence of cobbles, the Champs Élysées remains one of the most stressful day’s for the riders in the entire three weeks of riding. With each pass of the finishing line the tempo is seen to ratchet up a notch, the tenth and final pass setting the scene for the most decisive moments of Stage 21. Two tight 90-degree bends are present around the flamme rouge and once inside the last kilometre, the teams aiming to position their key man ahead of the bunch kick will need to successfully negotiate the two long sweeping bends which exit onto the 400m finishing straight, otherwise their chances of a final victory will be lost with in those concluding turns.

Le-Tour-de-France-2015-Stage-21-Preview-

Contenders:

The clear favourite for today’s win is Lotto-Soudal’s André Greipel, the German having dominated the sprints this year convincingly. He is yet to win on the Champs Élysées and could finally break his duck thanks to the sort of form which has seen his rivals struggle to challenge him in a consistent fashion during the race. His biggest disadvantage is how he fails to recover in time for the sprint off the back of the usual run of transition stages which link the final Alpine days with the last day in Paris; let alone how today comes off the back of yesterday’s Alp d’Huez finish. Greipel has been climbing better than expected however, comfortably placed within the grupetto on every day alongside his rivals such as Mark Cavendish and John Degenkolb. The absence of Greg Henderson within his train will be a negative for him on a day where positioning is crucial, though he seems to have improved when having to compensate for poor placing in the sprints. Perhaps the only thing that could stop him is the possibility of a heavy downpour during the final lap of Stage 21, the rain often seeing Greipel shrink from the front of affairs in fear of crashing and ruining his season.

Mark Cavendish remains one of the favourites for Stage 21, despite having only put in a couple of convincing performances to truly test and beat André Greipel during the rare sprint stages. Sadly for him, he has lost an immense amount of firepower from his leadout train; Tony Martin, Mark Renshaw and Michal Kwiatkowski having all abandoned the race. Lacking the high end speed of Martin and Kwiatkowski is bad enough, but adding the lack of his leadout man Renshaw too; Cavendish is truly handicapped heading into today’s stage. Teammates Matteo Trentin and Zdenek Stybar are expected to pick up the slack for Cavendish, but although great riders, neither have the engine or skills to compensate for their absent teammates. Though Cavendish is probably still the fastest man in a sprint, his dominance of the Champs Élysées in recent years has been down to the immense support which has seen him exit the final bend in pole position almost every time. This seems unlikely to happen again today and instead he will be better off hiding in the wheels and launching a late sprint similar to that which won him his sole victory so for at Le Tour.

Many will be be deterred from backing the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff as his performances have not been quite as scintillating as expected off the back of a brilliant Spring campaign. However, Kristoff often exits the attritional tail end of a Grand Tour with strength and it would be no surprise if he has been pacing his efforts comfortably in the grupetto to expend as little energy as possible to make each day’s time cut. There is no doubt that Kristoff has targeted this final stage as his major goal for the entire race and now enters it with a strong advantage in the form of a leadout train which appears only equalled by Lotto-Soudal. Though he is not as fast as Griepel and Cavendish, Kristoff should be fresher, has more support than his British rival and really benefits from the gentle incline which runs up to the finishing line. Weather is similarly now problem for this tough classics styled rider, and if anything, he would have preferred a long, harder day to close Le Tour de France.

John Degenkolb has had a reasonably quiet race, but has still put in encouraging displays which earn him inclusion as a true contender for Stage 21. Generally speaking, Degenkolb often exits the last mountain stages of a Grand Tour in good condition, often underrated as a good climber due to his successes as a sprinter and classics specialist. Similar to Alexander Kristoff, freshness is bound to be his biggest advantage over his faster finishing rivals such as Mark Cavendish and André Greipel; as well as a the slight drag to the line. Degenkolb also has the next best leadout after Lotto-Soudal and Katusha for today, meaning he should be better position than expected and the reigning Paris-Roubaix champion will certainly have no issues with tackling the possibility of wet cobblestones in the finale.

Now would be the perfect occasion for Peter Sagan to finally convert his podium placings into a stage victory, adding the cherry to another dominant Green Jersey compeition which he choked of life not long after Greipel’s last win. In comparison to those above him, he lacks the sustained high end speed to contest these simple sprint finishes, though has demonstrated a new found turn of pace this year. His positioning ability has fluctuated greatly this year and he will have no support whatsoever as usual from Tinkoff-Saxo. Some atrocious weather conditions could level the playing field slightly for the Slovakian champion, but he ultimately looks resigned to come within a whisker of another win and finish with the Green Jersey and zero wins.

Arnaud Demare, Davide CimolaiBryan Coquard, Michael MatthewsRamunas NavardauskasEdvald Boasson Hagen are all likely names to round out the top ten here in Paris. Given that the chance of bad weather seems a given on Stage 21, any wet conditions will make the peloton anxious to stay upright, slowing them down and providing a breakaway with a much better chance of causing an upset similar to that of this year’s Giro d’Italia finale. Jan BakelantsRohan DennisStephen CummingsLuke Durbridge and Sep Vanmarcke all possess the skills to instigate such a move and give the peloton something difficult to pull back to guarantee them a sprint finish.

Outcome:

1st Alexander Kristoff 2nd Andre Greipel 3rd Peter Sagan

The Sprint Finish – Le Tour Stage 21

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.

Same Old Story.

Same Old Story.

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.

The Contenders:

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.

BONUS:

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.

A Roll To Bergerac – Le Tour Stage 19

After the Pyrenean onslaught thrown at the riders over the last three days since Carcassonne, tomorrow’s rolling topography will ease the legs somewhat in comparison. Yet it is still an almost 210km trip tomorrow from Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour to Bergerac, so to consider this an easy day would be foolish given the scarcity of an “easy day” during any edition of Le Tour de France.

With all jerseys now settled, and the three way battle for the two remaining podium spots put on ice until the individual time trial, tomorrow offers itself up to the freshest sprinters instead. 

Simple?

Simple?

Despite the rolling nature throughout, and a Cat 4 climb with just over 10km left, stage 19 is positively flat; yet an obligatory breakaway will do their best to make life difficult for the sprint teams as it comes to chasing them down. Should such a breakaway still be away as they top Côte de Monbazilla, their hopes will remain slim as the consequential descent will lend perfectly to any chasing sprint teams.

The Contenders:

Marcel Kittel and most of the other sprint trains were last over the line on Stage 17 and certainly did not look able to overturn the tiredness in time for today. John Degenkolb could be the wiser bet for the day’s finish when looking at Giant-Shimano, especially as Kittel is likely to already have one eye firmly locked on the Champs Élysées finale. 

Andre Greipel is an unknown quantity in regards to his fitness since completing the last mountain run; though he was 4th on Stage 15 and could benefit again from a more disorganised sprint.

Bryan Coquard and Kévin Reza had a bizarre excursion into the breakaway yesterday which seems a surprising use of their energy given the favourable terrain today. Despite being one of the most consistent sprinters this year (including intermediates) Coquard is still bereft of a stage win and stage 19 is his last chance realistically.

No doubt Alexander Kristoff, Mark Renshaw, Romain Feillu and Samuel Dumoulin will be bobbing around in the top 10 in some order or another, but other than Kirstoff it is difficulty to see any of them springing a surprise upon tomorrow’s favourite.

The day’s winner will come in the form of Peter Sagan. To state that he is maintained a suffocating stranglehold upon the Green Jersey competition would do Sagan a disservice, the man has been ruthless once again this year. However, he still finds himself lacking the crowning glory to this Green Jersey campaign; the elusive stage win. Sagan never fails to maintain a presence in the top 5 finishers it seems and tomorrow would appear to lend itself to him in one of two ways. First of all, the pure sprinters will definitely be more concerned with staying fresh after the Pyrenees for the Champs Élysées on Sunday, hopefully diminishing their dedication to contest today’s stage. The second way in which Sagan may find himself benefited is the Cat 4 climb; we know how aggressive he can be when he sees an opportunity to ‘get one over’ on the peloton and that could be found in attacking on the descent from Côte de Monbazillac with around 10km left, dropping like a stone in the most comically aero position he can muster. Whichever the method, Peter Sagan will be eager to add a broad grin to his guaranteed Green Jersey and will surely throw everything at tomorrow in order to be smiling on more than just the Sprinter’s podium at the end of Stage 19.