Here's what we were talking about on the final stage of the 2015 Tour de France

Wasn’t it wet?

Watching La Course – the women’s race that preceded stage 21 – it looked as if the men might really struggle on the Champs-Elysées, what with the number of crashes the women suffered.

Cycling over cobbles is never the easiest, let alone when they’re wet, meaning a number of the women hit the ground after sliding out on corners or dabbing their brakes at high speed.

By the time the men hit the course, though, the weather had relented, meaning the only crash came in the final three kilometres when Stijn Devolder hit the ground hard.

Luckily the weather and threat of further rain did not detract from the action, with the sprinters’ teams able to up the pace in the final kilometres to set their men up for the win.

After weeks of seeing the race pass through the searing heat of Southern France it was strange to see the peloton donning their wet weather gear, but they weren’t to be deterred.

Andre Greipel sealed his perfect Tour

Andre Greipel wins Stage 21 of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

Andre Greipel wins Stage 21 of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

Greipel is used to playing the bridesmaid to the other big name sprinters at the Tour de France, losing out to the likes of Mark Cavendish on more occasions than he’d care to remember in previous editions.

This year, though, was undoubtedly his year and his best Tour of his career. He showed his strength compared to his rivals as early as stage two, winning in the gale-force winds in Zeeland.

Greipel followed it up three days later on stage five in Amiens, beating Peter Sagan into second place once more and had to wait over a week for his next opportunity. This time he beat fellow German John Degenkolb to the line to win in Valence before battling through the Alps to his final chance at victory.

For his rivals, like Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff, Paris was an opportunity to salvage what has been a tough Tour for them. Degenkolb has been close but never pulled off a win, while Kristoff has been largely irrelevant for the three weeks.

Sagan, meanwhile, rode one of the best Tours de France we’ve seen in recent history but like his other punchy sprinters, couldn’t muster a win despite numerous podium places.

German sprinting was thought to have suffered when Marcel Kittel was not selected for the Tour, but Greipel made sure the country’s fans were not left disappointed.

Chris Froome enjoyed his celebratory procession

Chris Froome celebrates with a glass of champagne during Stage 21 of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

Chris Froome celebrates with a glass of champagne during Stage 21 of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

For the man in the yellow jersey heading into the final stage of the Tour de France it’s usually a procession to the finish line and for Chris Froome it was no different.

The British Team Sky rider certainly enjoyed himself on his way to the Champs-Elysées as the stage started from Sevres. Froome spent the majority of the first 41 kilometres making his way through the peloton chatting to his rivals, his teammates and various other riders in the peloton.

Stage 17 winner Simon Geschke patted Froome on the back of his yellow jersey as he rode past, while he shared a good chat with Nairo Quintana, who tried his best to spoil his party on stages 19 and 20.

Only a little wobble from Richie Porte threatened to derail his easy route to the finish, but after reaching the Champs-Elysées Froome knew he’d wrapped up the win.

The breakaway took its time

While stage 21 is more of a procession in the opening stages, once riders reach the Champs-Elysées it normally comes to life and people actually try to win the race.

This year, though, it took a very long time for anything to actually happen. The sprinters’ teams were happy to let Team Sky do all the work on the front as the peloton trundled towards the finish at a pretty slow pace.

Finally, though, Sylvain Chavanel decided to have a pop off the front. It was probably less of an attempt to win the stage and more an opportunity to put himself in the shop window – with the Frenchman out of contract at the end of the year.

Then Kenneth Vanbilsen, Nelson Oliveira and Florian Vachon took one for the team and pulled off the front of the peloton. They were joined by Rohan Dennis with around 12km to go – one man in the peloton who has the ability to ride away from that distance.

But by that point the sprint trains had formed and there was no chance the break would make it to the finish. It is Tour de France tradition, though – making a futile breakaway on the Champs-Elysees only to see it ruined by the fastmen.

Froome’s speech needed a bit of work

Tour de France - Stage 21

Chris Froome with his wife Michelle after stage 21 of the 2015 Tour de France

I can’t remember Chris Froome’s winning speech from 2013, which probably means it was as unmemorable as his one on Sunday after stage 21.

Reading off a sheet of paper, Froome individually thanked each of his eight teammates, his teammates and his wife as Quintana and Alejandro Valverde looked on a little bored.

Having thanked everyone Froome broke into his best French to thank the organisers and fans – or those who didn’t spit at or insult him – and saying that he respects everything that the yellow jersey means.

He didn’t explicitly say it, but Froome once again insisted that his performances have been clean, referring to the jersey’s rather chequered past.

As winning speeches go, though, it wasn’t a touch on the one delivered by the slightly more charismatic Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2012, but I guess I’m asking a bit much there, aren’t I?

 

  • Phil Hall

    I look forward to hearing it.

  • eminusx

    Yeah, I’m really glad he said that also. Of course some idiots will see it as an arrogant, self-congratulatory statement but that really isn’t the case or the intent. The sport has a new generation of riders that have grown up angry With how the past has ruined the current image of our sport, now there are riders like Froome, Kittel, Martin, Thomas who openly express their need to succeed cleanly and approach it with a more honest work ethic.

    I’d like to see an organised attempt to pull these guys together and, like Hinault in the 80s, it takes someone in Froomes position to stand up and be the catalyst, be the spokesperson, I think it’s a courageous move in the face of recent staunch slanderous opposition, he’s a credit to his team and his sport and I think the rest of the peloton should get behind him and work together.

  • Vale

    Exactly right. Why sportsman need to make speeches I don’t know, F1 interviews post race on the podium are quite painful on occasions.
    What type of speech would Nairo deliver I wonder?

  • maprun

    I quite agree with eminusx. A well thought out strong speech, made memorable by what he said at towards the end.

    “Someone needs to speak up for the cyclists. I’m happy to do that. Someone has to make a stand, the time is now.”

  • eminusx

    HIS SPEECH!?!? You’re kidding right?
    I thought what he said about the jersey was sincere and all that needed to be said, he’s a cyclist, not a politician or comedian.