After 3 weeks of hard slog, the riders are within touching distance of Paris. Tonight’s final stage, Stage 21 of the 2013 Tour de France, is a casual 133 kilometres from the Palace of Versailles to the Champs-Elysees right in the heart of Paris. The riders finish the stage by doing ten laps up and down the Champs-Elysees, even taking in the Arc de Triomphe this year.
The stage will finish at 9:45pm local time, with the riders finishing under lights for the very first time. It’s a stage that’s all about celebration – celebrating those who have secured a stage win, those who have won one of the Classifications on offer and those who have made it Paris, a feat in itself.
The route is predominantly flat, just two Category 4 climbs for the riders to go over, and with just 2 points on offer for the King of the Mountains Classification, Movistar’s Nairo Quintana can’t be caught.
Team Sky will bring one of their riders into Paris wearing yellow for the second straight year, with Chris Froome about to secure his first Tour de France after doing so much for last year’s champion Bradley Wiggins.
While this stage is largely ceremonial, once we hit the Champs-Elysees the sprinters will start to take control of the race as they fight for the last stage win on offer.
Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharma-Quick Step has won the last 4 stages on the Champs-Elysees, but Argos-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel has shown this Tour that he can match it with the Manxman in the pure sprints and will be doing everything he can to prevent a 5th straight win for Cavendish.
Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Jose-Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) will all be searching for a victory, with only Greipel having secured a stage win so far this Tour, while the man who leads the Points Classification – Peter Sagan of Cannondale –will also be right in the finish.
It promises to be an exciting finish to what has been a very enjoyable Tour, be sure to join me for all the live action from 4:30am AEST.