ysobelle: (Kayli)
[personal profile] ysobelle
Stage 21: Chantilly to the Champs-Élysées, Paris, 113km

Well. We made it. We’re here. It’s Paris, at last.

Our trek starts this morning at a place I’ve actually been, and have hoped so very hard to see again: the grand and awe-inspiring chateau in Chantilly. The entire peloton sweeps through the grounds on a course lined with spectators, before exiting through a fairly small gate. Through the town, packed with cheering crowds. Out into the countryside, down long, tree-shaded roads. The weather is perfect, and we’re bringing home a field of unprecedented size: 175 riders finish this year’s tour, beating the largest number (2010’s field) by five. I’m ecstatic. Even Sam Bennett, horribly roughed-up by a crash at the beginning of the race, is still with us, though he’s the Lantern Rouge, the very last rider, over five hours down.

After the toasts and the photo ops— all of Sky putting their hands on each others’ shoulders to create a chain across the road (carefully, and a bit wobbly), all of Sky sharing a beer or nine, then some champagne, all the riders chatting and joking with each other— we’re finally in Paris.

It’s such a sight to see the peloton sweep onto the cobbles of the Champs-Élysées, especially with the French Air Force swooping overhead, leaving trails of red, white, and blue. This year, there are eight laps around the Arc du Triomphe, and we have eight riders with a twenty-second advantage. Daniel Teklehaimanot is there. Rui Costa. Brice Feillu. American Lawson Craddock. It’s a good group, but can they stay away? Likely not. And there’s an intermediate sprint, but Sagan’s so far ahead of everyone else in that competition it’s not a competition any more.

Andre Greipel had a planned bike change in prep for the final sprint. Sadly, Tony Martin just abandoned due to knee pain. Horrifically, the cameras come back to Marcel Kittel, who’s off his bike with a mechanical. His mechanic has a new bike to him within seconds, but just a few feet later, he’s off again! Does the new bike have a flat?! He stands up, unlatching the back wheel and throwing it in frustration— it spins into the caravan and bounces off another car, back at him. A new wheel arrives almost instantly, and for a moment, it looks like he has ANOTHER problem! But no, he’s back out, and off again. But G-d, he’s 30, 40 seconds back. He’s drafting his team car, and everyone knows it, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll get a penalty for it. He’s already so screwed. He’s working his way through the caravan, and he will— he WILL— get back into position. Jens Voight, commenting, says this will be the wake-up cal his legs need, and it could be good for him in the long run. I like Kittel. I hope Jens is right.

Seven in the front, now. Marcus Burghardt had a mechanical, and has dropped back to the peloton. Jens brings up a very good point as we see Kittel regain the field: where the hell was Etixx? Why didn’t they come back for their main chance to win this stage? Excellent question.

Three laps to go. The riders swing past Joan of Arc and Norwegian Corner. Ugh— a bike change for Dan Martin, who’s flatted. Again, where’s his team? What’s going on, Etixx? Are your radios broken?

Two sky riders have bridged up to the leaders, now, but not long after, the whole group is pulled back! So now, the whole field’s together. Except for an Astana rider, Alexey Lutsenko, who makes a break for it. A BMC rider takes off after him— Oh! It’s Greg Van Avermaet! He was in Yellow for three days this year, and he’s not done with this Tour yet.

Coming down to the bell lap. Froome is safely tucked into the group of his teammates. Once again in front of St. Joan and the Norwegians, past the carnival rides, as the sun begins to sink. Back to the Champs-Élysées again, and ah, there’s the gentleman with the bell big as his head, ringing it for all he’s worth. The final lap!

Direct Energy is pushing the pace, but Astana is setting up opposite them on the left. The whole field separates and merges as everyone tries to set up, and it’s just messy. Which sprinters are going where? Again around the Arc du Triomphe, and Etixx has finally gotten their collective ass in gear for Marcel Kittel.

OH! There’s a crash, and a hard fall from an IAM rider. There won’t be any catching up for him. But Chris Froome was at the back of the peloton, and now he’s— oh! Another problem! Brian Cocquard! AUGH! It’s a flat! Oh, no, that’s crushing!

1.8km to go. Cofidis is in front as they go in front of Joan for the last time. Alexander Kristoff is up there, Greipel is, Kittel is— no! It’s Greipel! His first stage win this year!

And then, at the very back, a line of yellow and black, as Sky links up yet again— a bit more securely— and crosses the line arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder. How wonderful!

The podiums are always fun in Paris. Andre Greipel accepts his stage win trophies with his daughters. Peter Sagan comes up for his final Green jersey— he’s off to Rio to compete in the mountain bike competition! Rafal Majka gets his grand Polka Dots, and finally, Chris Froome is granted his final Maillot Jaune for 2016. His wife met him on the line after his win, with their very baby baby, who looked up at Dad in utter confusion, then started crying at the noise and confusion of being surrounded by dozens of clamouring reporters. Maybe one more stuffed lion will make him feel better!

So there we have it. It’s all over for another year. Well, except for everyone now headed to Rio— they’ve got a bit to go before they can rest. It’s been a fun ride, though, and I hope everyone had fun. Thanks for sticking with me.

Until next year!

Overall leader and yellow jersey, Chris Froome, crosses the finish line with his team-mates to win the race. Photograph: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images, from https://www.theguardian.com/sport/live/2016/jul/24/chris-froome-set-to-win-third-tour-de-france-in-paris-live

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