A final stage in Paris and the likely sprint finish. Don’t miss the opening start of the Tour de France Femmes that precedes this stage and takes over for the next week.
Un Grand Petit Ballon: another frenetic stage that left viewers with fried nerves, the kind that could defeat video editors tasked with shrinking the day’s action into highlights package.
The irrepressible Victor Campenaerts took off up the road in a doomed move. Guilio Ciccone and Lidl-Trek had a plan for the day and he scored maximum points on the early climbs until the polka jersey was arithmetically his, and with help from his team mates with even Mads Pedersen sprinting for the points atop the Ballon d’Alsace to make sure Jonas Vingegaard didn’t score big.
Carlos Rodriguez crashed coming down the Grand Ballon and took out Sep Kuss, both would lose places overall, the Spaniard slipping to fifth and the American out of the top-10 but the glass half full version is they both finished the stage despite nasty facial injuries, better than Victor Lafay who crashed and had to stop. Rodriguez’s fall split the peloton on the descent and Vingegaard found himself in the front group but his presence was condemning the breakaway and the others told him and he’d soon sit up.
Thibaut Pinot stood up made a late move to bridge across to the breakaway, launching on the Croix Moinat climb and having two team mates for help before going solo in a trampoline move on the Grosse Pierre, his training roads. UAE were chasing and the breakaway didn’t seem to have more than a minute’s lead but they couldn’t eat into this on the long descent of the Col de la Schlucht into Munster.
Pinot took off on the Petit Ballon, thousands of fans were waiting up ahead for him but it already felt like the whole course belonged to him. All stage you could hear cries of “allez Thibaut!” and to reach the expectant fans on the “Virage Pinot” was a form of apotheosis, but more for Pinot-mania than Pinot himself. He sports a tattoo saying “only victory is beautiful” in Italian on his arm and he was insistent after the line that this wasn’t a victory even if it was very special and a day he won’t forget. Riders have raced in front of home crowds before to admiration and respect but this was different, a wave of popular fervour. As he yanked at the bars and chopped at the pedals in his own style he was also pulling at their heartstrings, alone, in front and in charge.
Pinot crested the pass with 30 seconds. This was down to 25 for the start of the Platzerwasel and on the long straight climb he was reeled in by Tom Pidcock and Warren Barguil. Behind Pogačar attacked and a few pedal strokes later he was away with Vingegaard and the surprising Felix Gall and the trio had halved the lead, then caught the leaders and rode past, including Pinot was still thrashing at the pedals but now clearly beaten. The top-10 overall was in play on the final mountain pass of the Tour and with Gall up the road the Yates brothers were in action again, a flashback to Bilbao all those days ago but as they rode across to the front group the cooperation ended once they got there. Adam hit the front to set tempo for Pogačar, Simon tried to upset this with an attack. Pogačar duly won the sprint, coming around Vingegaard for his second stage win.
The Route: a start in the Yvelines, host to the habitual Paris-Nice opener and then past Versailles and into Paris, including a magical passing through the Louvre courtyard. There are eight laps of the 6.8km circuit. As ever it rises to the Place de l’Etoile more than you might think, the Champs Elysées have their urban pavé and the finish has the chicane off the Place de la Concorde.
The Contenders: Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) won here last year and it’s hard to see past him again, especially with Mathieu van der Poel as a leadout. But no two sprints are the same and it’s on other teams to come up with a plan. Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-Al Ula) has the speed on paper but has been tired so isn’t an easy pick.
|Groenewegen, Pedersen, Kristoff|
|Girmay, Welsford, Coquard, Laporte, Meeus, Sagan|
Weather: 21°C and a high chance of rain.
TV: KM0 is at 4.40pm and the finish is forecast for 7.30pm CEST. Every year people seem outraged that the final stage has an easygoing parade for the early part but if you’re not into these routines, the trick is to tune in late for the action, be in front of your screen for the last half hour and the prestige sprint finish.
Better still tune in earlier for Le Tour de France Femmes with the stage starting at 12.15 and the finish due around 3.30pm CEST in Clermont-Ferrand with a hilly finish that includes a climb out of Durtol to reach the the big road in Orcines climbed by the men on their way to the Puy de Dôme but here it’s a descent back into the city before a slight uphill rise to the line.