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WHERE ARE WE?
Paris, for the annual assault and battery on our wallets that happens when we order coffees, served by a surly garçon, whose contempt for us will be profound and unbounded.
Stage start Rambouillet is an extremely pleasant town. Stage finish Champs Elysées is grand and historic. In between the two, there’ll be a ride through the less-salubrious Parisian suburbs. It’s the proverbial sh*t sandwich.
WHAT’S ON THE ROUTE?
A couple of fourth category climbs. We’d love it if the King of the Mountains classification was being led by two points or fewer at this point – it would be the most entertaining final stage since 1989. Then it’s the traditional laps of the Champs Elysées. There’s a long drag up to the Arc de Triomphe, then a pell-mell descent back down to the Place de la Concorde, before a quick circuit of the Jardin des Tuiléries and back again.
WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?
Mark Cavendish will win in Paris for a fourth consecutive time, if he’s still in the race. The Tour’s not over, though – that evening will see bad dancing and swift drunkenness for the infamous Stage 21.
WE’LL BE GORGING ON…
A proper, posh steak and chips – from a proper, posh Parisian brasserie.
That first glimpse of ‘real’ Paris – the Eiffel Tower appearing on the horizon. Then the last lap – it’s hard to comprehend just how fast the riders are going here.
LAST 10 WINNERS IN PARIS
2002 Robbie McEwen (Aus)
2003 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra)
2004 Tom Boonen (Bel)
2005 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz)
2006 Thor Hushovd (Nor)
2007 Daniele Bennati (Ita)
2008 Gert Steegmans (Bel)
2009 Mark Cavendish (GB)
2010 Mark Cavendish (GB)
2011 Mark Cavendish (GB)
I WON HERE…IN 2006
Thor Hushovd, Norway
“For most of the riders, it’s just an easy day, having fun for 100 kilometres. But as a sprinter, I’m always nervous and focused. I remember the night before, I visualised in my head how I wanted it to go and went to sleep with that image – and it happened the next day, as planned, which was strange.
“That day, I had such good legs, I felt easy going up the drag to the Arc de Triomphe. It was a long, fast sprint. I got on Robbie McEwen’s wheel and went with 150 metres to go. It was one of the best sprints I’ve ever done.
“It’s special: you’re already emotional on the Champs-Elysées from finishing and fighting for three weeks just to be there. My Crédit Agricole team was delighted. I remember the next morning was tough. I’m normally one of those who stays out late, celebrating. “
– The Champs Elysées has been the finish of the Tour every year since 1975. Before that, the race still always finished in Paris.
– Out of 37 finishes on the Champs, 32 have been bunch sprints. The last successful escape was Alexandre Vinokourov’s last-minute break in 2005.
– The other successful breaks to win here: Alain Meslet (1977), Bernard Hinault (1979), Jeff Pierce (1987) and Eddy Seigneur (1994).
– Mark Cavendish is the record-holder of wins on the Champs, with three. Bernard Hinault, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov and Robbie McEwen are the riders who have done it twice.
– Belgium lead by nationality of winners, with eight. The French and Italians have won five apiece, with the Dutch on four.
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Maps courtesy of Amaury Sports Organisation