- American Sports
- Other Sports
- Euro 2012
The 21st and final stage of the 2012 Tour de France saw the peloton pass from Rambouillet to the Champs Elysees, only around 120km but in reality the bunch would probably race for around 50-60km of that, the rest being a procession towards the outskirts of Paris, passing through beautiful countryside and historic buildings such as the Palace of Versailles. Team Sky, on their ultimate day of triumph, had decked their iconic black and blue bus and logos in yellow, with Tour leader Bradley Wiggins riding an all yellow bike in honour of his achievement. Indeed, Peter Sagan, Tejay Van Garderen and Thomas Voeckler wore green, white and polka dot jerseys respectively. The win for Wiggins ranks among the best, if not the best British sporting achievement of all time, having gone 98 previous Tours without really a sniff of an overall victory. Tommy Simpson, the legendary cyclist who started serious British involvement but died on the slopes of the Ventoux will undoubtedly be proudly smiling down from somewhere today.
After rolling out from Rambouillet and the neutral zone, the usual attacks did not and would not come for an awfully long time today, as all riders chat amiably about their achievements over the past 2 weeks. Of course, just finishing such a gruelling endurance event is an achievement in itself. 153 out of the 198 riders who started Le Tour would finish the race on the streets of central Paris today. All the Sky riders had been given yellow Oakley sunglasses on the day, as Michael Rogers proceeded to line the entire team up at the back of the peloton to present the photographers with a perfect picture opportunity. Plenty of varying riders took their turn to sit at the front and chat to each other; Peter Sagan and Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins and Stuart O’Grady and Ivan Basso and Janez Brajkovic all providing shots of the leading Tour riders for fans to photograph. It is generally traditional for the Maillot Jaune to pose with a glass of champagne but Wiggins and Sky, ever the professionals were more concerned about getting to Paris in one piece. In a change from the relative norm, 2 Category 4 climbs were placed on the route today, perhaps as a token gesture from Christophe Prudhomme to ensure that it wasn’t a completely flat roll in to the French capital city. Thomas Voeckler was allowed to ceremonially move over the first climb with no other rider in sight, TV Tommy grinning from ear to ear, resplendent in his King of the Mountains jersey and coloured bike. Ruben Plaza (SPA, Movistar) led the peloton over the final climb of the entire tour as his team took a turn on the front to chat with Italian outfit Liquigas. At the half way point of the stage, no racing had yet occurred as the riders reached the 60km to go mark and the final hour and a half of the 2012 Tour. Once the peloton reached Paris, the riders will roll to the Champs Elysees (behind a presumed attack) before completing 8 lightning fast circuits of the world famous street before crossing the finish line.
With 58km to go, the peloton passed the banks of the river Seine, with the Eiffel Tower looming on their right as the bunch neared the Champs Elysees for the very first time. The Place de La Concord would undoubtedly be the first place that pressure would be applied for the first time. With 50km to go and Le Louvre looming up racing seemed set to commence. The statue of Joan D’Arc signalled the run on to the Champs Elysees for the very first time, and the paced ramped up dramatically. George Hincapie, riding in his record 17th Tour de France, finishing 16 in a record, was allowed the honour of leading the riders on the Champs Elysees in his last year before retirement. A startling number of Union Jacks covered the famous road, almost rivalling the amount of Tricolour that is synonymous with France. Jerome Pineau (FRA, Omega Pharma- Quick Step) was the first to attack seriously but the pace of the peloton quickly brought him back. Danilo Hondo (GER, Lampre) and Jens Voigt (GER, RadioShack-Nissan) were the first to make a substantial break; about 100m clear of the peloton as the bunch rounded for the second lap of the Champs Elysees. With 85km to go, the intermediate sprint was nearly upon us, although it was barely contested as the riders were too engrossed in chasing. Hondo took the points ahead of Voigt as Lars Bak (DEN, Lotto-Belisol) had joined the leading trio, chased by a whole bunch of riders with the peloton only about 10 seconds behind. Sebastien Minard (FRA, Ag2r-La Mondiale) had joined Voigt up front with a small advantage over the peloton who were chasing hard behind the experienced German. Maxim Iglinsky (KAZ, Astana), Anders Lund (DEN, Saxobank) and Aliaksandr Kuchynski (BEL, Katusha) had joined Bak, Voigt and Minard up front with around 30km to go. Bram Tankink (NED, Rabobank) joined the leading group as probably the second riders in the leading septet that I have barely mentioned all Tour (along with Kuchynski). The lead had stretched out to 22 seconds with around 26km to go. As more riders joined the leading group Liquigas-Cannondale and Orica Greenedge came to the front of the peloton to help Sky’s chase, riding for Peter Sagan and Matt Goss respectively. With 15km to go, the breakaway bunch of now 11 riders had 18 seconds over the peloton as the pace really heated up for Stage victory. Sebastien Minard was in a position to attack off the front as the French sought to add to their impressive tally of victories on the final day.
Out front, Jens Voigt, Rui Costa (POR, Movistar) and Minard were the only 3 riders clear of the peloton as we entered the final 10km. Everyone else had faded or given up; the peloton closing in fast as Liquigas-Cannondale and Orica Greenedge took their turn. The breakaway was caught with 3km to go as the lead out trains of Team Sky began to take shape as they passed under the final kilometre banner. While the Maillot Jaune generally sits up and basks in the glory of his achievement, this year Bradley Wiggins produced an astonishing turn of pace before pulling over and allowing Edvald Boasson-Hagen to lead out Mark Cavendish well clear of his rivals. Matt Goss tried to overpower the Manx Missile but faded; Peter Sagan surging forward late to take second place. However, Cav was well clear by this point and rarely if ever gets passed while in the lead. His victory was significant for so many reasons; 4 years in a row winning on the Champs Elysees, his third stage win this year (2 in the final 3 stages), the 7th British win of the 2012 Tour but most significantly reaching 23 wins all time, passing Darrigarde and Armstrong to trail only Bernard Hinault, Andre Leducq and Eddie Merckx. He may possibly pass Leducq next year all being well and has truly cemented his place as the greatest road sprint cyclist of all time. The World Champion is truly an incredible rider, with a turn of pace like no other we’ve ever seen before. Cavendish will be slightly frustrated about his opportunity to win the green points jersey but will settle for his stage triumphs.
For Bradley Wiggins, this marks the culmination of years of hard work after the realisation by Dave Brailsford that his talents could be translated to the road and a Tour win. Team Sky’s dominance has been remarkable and they will look to continue in to future years as they hopefully send Wiggins and Chris Froome to further success. What this means for British cycling remains to be seen, but Both Wiggins and Froome will have their sight set on the Olympics with Froome set up for the Vuelta a Espana to come.
Final General Classification-
Final Points Classification-
Final King of the Mountains Classification-
Final Young Rider Classification-
Special mention to RadioShack-Nissan, who win the team classification after impressive performances by Haimar Zubeldia, Chris Horner, Andreas Kloden and Maxime Monfort while the most aggressive rider of the Tour was handed to Chris Anker Sorensen, who will require a skin graft back in Copenhagen tomorrow after cutting his hand to the bone in his spokes on Stage 17. The Dane finished 14th overall and 3rd in the King of the Mountains classification. SportsUN will be back tomorrow for some reflection after contemplation of the whole 3 weeks.