What to say about the final stage other than it is the last hurrah?
Actually, there's quite a lot to say...
Chris Froome’s winning margin is almost identical to that of his first Tour de France victory where he was without peer. Both he and his team, who finished with all nine riders, were magisterial. Team Sky has a winning rider; they did not win the teams’ classification (where they finished second to Movistar) but they were the best GC team; and they have a winning formula. "It would be my dream to keep coming back to the Tour de France for the next five or six years if I can, to be on the start line and give myself the best shot of fighting for victory again," Froome, in his winner’s press conference yesterday in Morzine, said. "I've now won it three times and I can't say the novelty is wearing off. It's such an incredible feeling and amazing event. It's the biggest honour there is in our sport and I hope I can be back again next year."
Having turned 31 just two months ago, why not?
Perhaps the only concession is that physically, the Kenyan-born Brit does not look like he’s getting any stronger - though he’s certainly getting smarter. The audacious downhill run to Bagnères-de-Luchon on Stage 8; swapping off with Peter Sagan en route to Montpellier on Stage 11; the very next day, quite literally thinking on his feet on the Ventoux; on a stormy Stage 19, after crashing off the Montée de Bisanne and wrecking his steed, using team-mate Geraint Thomas’ bike which he rode all the way to the finish at Le Bettex. All telltale signs of a man who can not just survive, but thrive, under extreme pressure. The two time trials, where he gained most of his time on Romain Bardet and Nairo Quintana, the two men who will flank him in Paris when he is officially inaugurated as a three-time winner, were simply confirmation of his superior all-round ability.
Other than through circumstance, it’s hard to see the situation changing anytime soon. Membership is still open to the five-times winner’s club...
The pre-Worlds Worlds...
As for today, this is the de-facto world championships for sprinters. We haven't had an actual world championships for the fast-twitchers since Copenhagen in 2011, the year Mark Cavendish donned the arc-en-ciel; this year favours the fast-men but if the Qatari desert winds blow who knows what may happen? Conversely, the potential of a bunch gallop on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is as sure a bet as a politician not keeping all his pre-election promises.
While the Champs-Élysées has been the Tour's final resting place since 1975, La Grande Boucle has not yet been to Chantilly, and not since 1984 has the final stage begun north of Paris. Famous for its stunning 16th century château and the Musée Condé, second only to the Louvre in its collection of old paintings in France, and of course Chantilly cream and lace, the town also hosted the start of Paris-Roubaix between 1966-76 (Eddy Merckx took his three victories in The Hell of the North during this period) before moving to its present day location in Compiègne.
From Chantilly it's just an hour by car on the A1 to the world's most famous boulevard. However the remaining 175 riders (a record number of finishers this year - and to them we say chapeau!) in this 103rd Tour will take roughly three times as long to proudly say they've finished the world's most famous bike race. Once again, the obligatory eight passages applies to all before the last dash for cash on the cobblestones of the Champs - "a unique moment in the race and absolutely essential for a successful finale!" says technical director Thierry Gouvenou - and the final maillot jaune awarded, for which Monsieur Froome will receive the princely sum of 450,000 Euros.
À bientôt à Düsseldorf on July 1 next year for the 2017 Grand Départ!
Christian Prudhomme, Tour de France race director, says...
"From the Château de Chantilly to the Arc de Triomphe, the last act will be quite prestigious! The start of the final stage hasn't begun from the north of Paris since 1984. At the time, it was in Pantin. It'll therefore invite the riders to discover new areas of the capital. However, will that trouble the plans of the sprinters on the Champs-Élysées? That remains to be seen..."
Weather: Sunny and warm weather in Paris. Temperatures from 28-30°C. The wind will blow from the northwest at 30kmh in the afternoon and will become calm at the end of the day.