The key talking points from the final stage of the 2018 Tour de France
Alexander Kristoff wins on the Champs-Élysées
With every winner of the past nine Champs-Élysées stages having already left the race, today was a chance for someone new to triumph on the so-called sprinter’s World Championships.
There were plenty of candidates, with John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) leading out the sprint, Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) finishing fast and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) also getting himself into the mix. But it was Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) who came out on top to claim his biggest victory in years.
This victory has been long in the making. After excelling in 2014 to win two stages in what was just his second Tour appearance, Kristoff went winless in each of the next three editions. He had become something of a perpetual bridesmaid, registering five top five finishes at this Tour alone to add to many more near misses in recent years.
Today his draught comes to an end, with a victory that is a fitting reward for years of perseverance.
A great speech from Geraint Thomas
Give the sense of humour and charm Geraint Thomas has demonstrated in so many interviews in the past, we eagerly anticipated his speech on the podium as winner of the Tour de France.
The Welshman did not disappoint. He started by thanking and listing his Sky team-mates only to forget half of them, needing a prompt from Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) beside him to remind him to include Michal Kwiatkowski. He only managed to remember to thank his wife at the very end, and closed his speech with a mike drop.
We’re not sure what the French will make of it, or how it will sound in translation, but having experienced Bradley Wiggins’ ‘we’re just going to draw the raffle numbers’ seven years ago, perhaps it won’t seem too unusual a speech.
It was an example of what makes Thomas such a likeable character (although his wife and Kwiatkowski might not think the same having so nearly been snubbed), and a great ambassador for the Tour.
Last ditch efforts for stage wins come to nothing
A sprint finish on the Champs-Élysées might seem like an inevitability, but every year the stage is nonetheless full of attacks from riders eager to make the most of one last chance to gain a win.
Today’s longest lasting break was notable for how many teams were represented without a stage win to their name – Wanty-Groupe Gobert had Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Direct Energie had Damien Gaudin, EF Education First-Drapac had Taylor Phinney, and Katusha-Alpecin had Nils Politt.
It was a group of powerful rouleurs, who worked together well, but they all went home empty handed when the peloton swallowed them up 8km from the finish.
The day’s most threatening breakaway was still to come, however. Following a move from Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe), Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) took off out of the front of the peloton as the finish line approached. A surprisingly large gap opened up and for a few moments it looked as though the powerful young Belgian might hold on, but he tired in the finishing straight and was reeled in by the peloton.
No Champs-Élysées win for Peter Sagan
Two days after his self-proclaimed worst ever day on the bike, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) didn’t manage to recover in time to contest for victory on the Champs-Élysées.
The injuries sustained in a stage 17 crash made for a very difficult final few stages, to the extent where his completion of the race had been plunged into doubt.
However, there were clearly hopes within the team that the world champion had the condition to contest the stage, as Bora-Hansgrohe riders frequented the front of the peloton as the finish approached, but Sagan could only sprint for eighth place.
Nevertheless, this has still arguably been the best Tour de France of Sagan’s career. Three stage wins equals his previous best tally (from 2012 and 2016), and his huge total of 477 points in the green jersey competition is his highest to date.
Dan Martin awarded the super-combativity prize
One of the most familiar sights of the 2018 Tour de France was that of Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) going out on the attack.
The Irishman added excitement to many dull passages of the race by breaking out of the peloton at every opportunity, often remarking in post-race interviews that his motivation for doing so was, above all, to have fun.
For his efforts, he’s been awarded the super-combativity award, given to the rider deemed to have been the most aggressive rider at the Tour de France.
The decision was something of a surprise, especially given the tendency for a French rider to win – home favourite Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) seemed a prime candidate.
But Martin is undoubtedly a worthy winner, and wore the red number with honour on the Champs-Élysées – even if he didn’t manage one final attack.