We have to go back to 2005 for the last rider who managed to hold off a charging peloton on the Champs-Élysées. Aleksandr Vinokourov pulled it off. In 2006, Thor Hushovd won the sprint and since then the scenario has been unchanged. After three weeks of racing the Tour de France boil down to a thrilling criterium on the cobbles and an ensuing bunch sprint. At 116 kilometres, the 21st stage of the Tour de France travels from Houilles to Paris. Winning this one is the holy grail for every fast finisher.
Last year, Groenewegen broke the German hegemony with his first Tour de France win. The year’s before Greipel (2016, 2015) and Kittel (2014, 2013) ruled on the Champs-Élysées. The four years before that was Cavendish territory.
Young Groenewegen continued his patient development in 2018. The Dutchman won stages in the Dubai Tour, Volta ao Algarve, Paris-Nice, Tour of Norway, Tour of Slovenia, and pocketed his first Classic, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Kittel’s move to Katusha started to pay off quite late this season, but then the German landed his first two victories in the Tirreno-Adriatico. Kristoff powered to wins in the Tour of Oman and Adu Dhabi Tour before he added Eschborn-Frankfurt 2018 to his palmares. Arnaud Démare sprinted to the win in Paris-Nice’s 1st stage (uphill cobbled arrival), while he outgunned Fernando Gaviria recently in the Tour de Suisse.
Both Gaviria’s and Greipel’s season start have been plagued by setbacks, although they were not empty handed as they won early races – Gaviria in Latin America and Greipel at the Tour Down Under. Following his comeback the Colombian took three stages in the Tour of California – in a field with Kittel, Cavendish, Sagan, Kristoff, and Ewan – while Greipel sprinted to two victories the Tour of Belgium.
By the way, Champs-Élysées is French for Elysium, the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous in Greek mythology. What a place to end the World’s largest annual sporting event!
Favourites 21st stage 2018 Tour de France
*** Dylan Groenewegen, Marcel Kittel, Fernando Gaviria
** André Greipel, Mark Cavendish, Nacer Bouhanni
* Sonny Colbrelli, Alexander Kristoff, Arnaud Démare
– route 21st stage
Tour de France 2018 stage 21: Route maps, and more
Click on the images to zoom.