Stage 21 from Creteil to Paris marked the end of the Tour de France. Going in to the stage, every major classification – general, young rider, team and mountain – was finalized, save the points classification. HTC-Highroad’s Mark Cavendish entered the stage 15 points ahead of Movistar’s JJ Rojas, which meant that while Cadel Evans was sipping champagne, Cavendish and crew would need to control the peloton heading in to both the intermediate and final sprints. HTC was able to avoid excess work by allowing a break of six to go up the road, eating up the major points available in the intermediate. Cavendish was first out of the peloton following the break, and grabbed 2 additional points over Rojas, who came in 9th. Apparently this was enough to discourage any further aggression from Movistar, who barely participated in the final sprint handily won by Cavendish.
Here’s what we noticed:
1) Usually, given the TV broadcast schedules, we join races where a break has often been established. Today’s broadcast started at the beginning of the stage, and we got to see the establishment of the break once they hit the Paris loop. It’s nice being able to see the break rather than just be told one happened prior to transmission starting.
2) Just as the breakaway was bring swallowed by the peloton on the final lap of the circuit, Ben Swift made a last ditch attempt to ride off, gaining a little time on the charging peloton. Lars Bak went up to join him, and actually ended up dropping him. For a second it looked like Bak might be making an attempt of his own to win the stage, before he sat up and went back in to the pack. It’s more likely he was sent up front to shut down Swift, as well as patrol the front end in case any team – like Movistar – attempted a last minute break that could have a detrimental affect on Cavendish’s jersey or stage win. That break never materialized.
3) After the intermediate sprint, JJ Rojas and all of Movistar must have decided that despite bold words in recent days, they were tired of fighting. The top-placed Movistar rider in the stage was Francisco Ventoso, who finished 15th. Rojas finished 21st.
4) Are baby national champion jerseys the next big thing? Frank Schleck’s daughter was decked out in a Champion of Luxembourg onesie on the podium today – very cute – and Champion of Belgium Philippe Gilbert’s son was seen sporting his father’s stripes yesterday. Maybe we should make some baby Pavé jerseys. Thoughts?
5) Garmin-Cervélo took the stage to receive their team classification prize with a cardboard Dave Zabriskie cutout. We can only assume we’ll be seeing a steady stream of pictures on Twitter from his teammates as they bring the cutout with them on their celebrations tonight. Hopefully nothing too sordid.
6) Vacansoleil’s Johnny Hoogerland made it to Paris. Someone buy this man a big magnum of De Zeezuiper – brewed in his home province of Zeeland. And someone buy Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha the drink of his choice too – while he avoided the barbed wire, he was the one actually hit by a car. Tough guys, the both of them.
In many ways, the Tour de France is a race of the underdogs, no matter who enters it a favorite. An ill-timed crash, a split failed to be covered – all can change the face of the race in a split second. This Tour was so much fun to watch because of its underdogs – Hushovd and Voeckler defending the Maillot Jaune despite everyone expecting them to lose it at any moment. Garmin, after 3 tours, finally getting their stage wins. Cavendish getting beaten in a sprint by Farrar and Greipel, but taking the green jersey. All said and done, the most important underdog in the race was two time runner-up Cadel Evans. Discounted by many heading in to the race as a B-contender against the likes of Contador and the Schlecks, Evans rode boldly, never falling below fourth on the leader board. In an age where overall wins have mostly come from establishing a lead and limiting loss, Evans broke the mold and took his win in a hard fought battle, in one of the most exciting Tours we’ve seen in years. Thanks, Cadel!
Today brings our last stage wrap-up. It’s been a long, exciting, and busy 3 weeks – thanks for choosing to spend some of your time with us. We’ll have a whole slew of post-race analysis in the upcoming week to close out our Tour coverage. Let us know in a comment below what you thought of today’s stage, and the Tour overall, as well as what you’d like to hear us expound on – we’ll gladly oblige in order to keep our Tour fever going for another few days.