27/06 - Stage 21 - Évry to Paris Champs-Élysées - 137.5 km

After three hard weeks, it’s now time for the final stage of this year’s Tour de France. Today is the unofficial world championship amongst the sprinters.

The route
Starting out in Évry, the riders head west towards the only categorized climb of the day, Côte de Briis-sous-Forges (800 m at 5.2 %). Rafal Majka has already won the polka dot jersey and won’t be interested in taking the 1 KOM point on the top. Instead, we might see one of the smaller teams, which hasn’t gotten much out of this Tour, get some TV-time.

From the top of Côte de Briis-sous-Forges, the peloton parade will continue north with their eyes set on Paris. After 83 km on the bike, the riders start on the famous circuit around Champs-Élysées. The intermediate sprint is located one kilometer after the peloton passes the finishing line for the second time. In the past, we have seen the sprinters waste energy fighting for the points. This won’t be the case this time. Peter Sagan has already won the green jersey and nobody wants to risk losing any power before the final sprint. If so, it will only be for show.

The finish
The map of the lap in Paris, which is done 8 times in total, shows it all. There arisn’t much else to tell about it. The most crucial point is the final left-right s-bend with a bit more than 500 meters to go. In 2013, Koen de Kort made the leadout of the year, when he, with Marcel Kittel on his wheel, was the first rider out of this last corner. In the final sprint, nobody had the power to come around Kittel who won his fourth stage of the Tour.

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The favorites
Naturally, the number one favorite today is Marcel Kittel. He has been the best sprinter in the race so far, and now he finally has another chance to fight for the win again. After a very strong start, Giant-Shimano hasn’t had much luck. John Degenkolb has finished second twice, despite winning the sprint in the peloton behind a lone attacker. Today, Degenkolb is back in the leadout train, aiming to help Marcel Kittel to take his fourth stage win of the race. To me, Giant-Shimano has the best leadout train in the world. If they can manage to stay together this time, which has caused them some problems in the last bunch sprints, and hit the front on the final kilometer, it will be extremely difficult to pass Marcel Kittel before the finishing line.

The only rider who may have the power to do so is Alexander Kristoff. The strong Norwegian has won two stages in the second part of the race, proving to be very strong. Kristoff has trained specifically towards finishing a grand tour on a good note. Katusha doesn’t have a strong leadout team like Giant-Shimano. Therefore, Kristoff’s chances of success depend much on whose wheel he’s capable of staying on in the final. If he enters the last 300 meters on the wheel of Marcel Kittel, given Giant-Shimano has the lead, I wouldn’t put it beyond him to take the win with a Tour de France hattrick.

Andre Greipel will be very eager to make up for the last couple of unlucky performances. He crashed in the final of both stage 12 and stage 19 while only finishing 4th in Nîmes on stage 15. Lotto-Belisol has been working hard to set up their German champion. I’m sure they will try to do so again today. So far, we haven’t seen the true potential of their leadout train. Maybe today is the day Lotto-Belisol finally gets it right. On paper, Greipel has the power to win on Champs-Élysées but it won’t be easy.

The outsiders
Despite finishing within top5 in no less than nine stages in this year’s Tour de France, Peter Sagan is still without a win. He crashed in the final of stage 19 in the furious chase of Ramunas Navardauskas. Had he not gone down on the wet roads, I’m certain he would have made Top5 for the tenth time. Sagan doesn’t have the speed to match the big power sprinters like Kittel, Kristoff and Greipel. Therefore, it’s hard to see him win this stage. Another Top5 is probably the best he can do in Paris this year.

For other fast rider with a chance of a top result today look to Mark Renshaw, Bryan Coquard and maybe even Arnaud Démare if he’s feeling better. According to Oleg Tinkov, Daniele Bennati will win Champs-Élysées. Bennati won this stage in 2007, but I would be very surprised to see him cross the line first today. Even top3 would be a bit of a surprise to me. My super joker today is Davide Cimolai.

Also, don’t forget to watch the women’s race La Course today. It takes place on the same roads just a few hours before the Tour de France peloton enters Champs-Élysées. Matt de Neef of CyclingTips has made a great preview of the race, which you can read by clicking here.

For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv.