The main talking points from the final stage of the 2016 Tour de France

Greipel storms to victory

Andre Greipel wins stage 21 of the 2016 Tour de France

Andre Greipel wins in Paris. Photo: Graham Watson

After storming his way to four bunch wins last year, going winless for a whole 20 stages at this year’s Tour de France and being upstaged by rival Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) will have felt like a big comedown for André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)

But today, with Cavendish out of the picture, he was the quickest at the finish line, surging past Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and holding off an accelerating Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).

His Lotto-Soudal team assisted him well in the closing stages, leading the race into the crucial final corner, although Greipel was subsequently forced to improvise and force his way onto Kristoff’s wheel as his Katusha team took control on the finishing straight.

Winning the so-called ‘World Championships of sprinting’ makes up for any previous disappointment, and he can go home now content with what now looks like a successful Tour, and in the process has also kept his extraordinary record of winning at least one stage in each of the six Tours de France he has entered intact.

Etixx-QuickStep have a nightmare

Marcel Kittel on stage 21 of the 2016 Tour de France

Marcel Kittel rides hard to regain contact with the peloton after a mechanical issue

We’re not sure just how many mirrors were broken and ladders walked under by Etixx-QuickStep personnel overnight, but their riders endured all manner of bad luck on Sunday.

Even before they made a mess of their lead-out, with Marcel Kittel unable to contest the finishing sprint, Etixx-QuickStep had suffered a horrible succession of things going wrong.

First Tony Martin surprisingly abandoned with just 60km to go, his team citing knee pain as the reason. Then Kittel endured the bike change from hell, having to stop following a mechanical and being forced to wait for ages after being unhappy with his rear wheel. His frustration was made clear by a furious toss of said wheel to the ground.

Then their GC rider Dan Martin was given a fright as he suffered a mechanical, although he managed to pace his way back into the bunch with little hassle.


Watch: Tour de France 2016 stage 21 highlights


Sky get Froome home safely

Chris Froome on stage 21 of the 2016 Tour de France

Chris Froome on stage 21 of the 2016 Tour de France. Photo: Graham Watson

For yet another Parisian stage of the Tour de France, we were treated to the sight of the Team Sky riders crossing the finish line arm in arm – this time with a full set of riders after all nine managed to make it to the finish without abandoning.

It was a frantic finale to the stage, and some riders were caught up in crashes, but not Froome, who managed to keep himself safe and prevent the possibility of any disaster taking the yellow jersey from his shoulders.

Donning special modified Sky jerseys, that featured a yellow stripe to go with the customary black, the Sky riders were all smiles, finally able to relax having defend the jersey for the past two weeks.

Froome was also quick to thank his teammates on the podium, opening his speech with a tribute to them as well as coaching staff Dave Brailsford and Tim Kerrison.

Joaquim Rodriguez given fitting send-off

Joaquim Rodriguez, Tour de France 2016

Joaquim Rodriguez in his final Tour de France. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

The honour of being the first rider on the road as the race enters the Champs Élysées for the first time is usually bestowed to the yellow jersey, to soak up the cheers of the huge crowds that line the roads.

But sometimes a special dispensation is made for a high-profile rider making their last ever appearance at the Tour, and this year that man was Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).

The Spaniard announced during the first rest day that he would be retiring at the end of the season, and has enjoyed a glittering Tour de France career in which he has appeared five times, won three stages and finished as high as third overall in 2013.

Froome and Sky drinking beer, not the usual champagne

 

Chris Froome on stage 21 of the 2016 Tour de France

Chris Froome and Sky celebrated with a beer. Photo: Graham Watson

The run-in to Paris was a typically relaxed, celebratory affair, with the sight of riders happily chatting to each other while travelling at a snail’s pace a comfortingly familiar sight.

What was less familiar was the choice of drinks Chris Froome and Team Sky opted for to toast their achievement. This being France, we’re accustomed to seeing the yellow jersey-winning team sipping champagne early on in the stage, but Sky were seen each enjoying a bottle of beer each – specifically, a Belgian Leffe.

Sky are renowned for tearing up the rulebook and doing things their own, progressive way, and there will surely be some traditionalists upset by this latest rejection of Francophile traditions – though we’re not sure what marginal gains drinking beer offer.