What started as a race of near-misses turned out to be a 'Tour de Fortune' for Australian Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) as an expertly timed bike throw on the finish line of the final stage of the 106th Tour de France earned him his third stage win in race debut.
The 25-year-old sprinter, who signed with Lotto Soudal at the end of last year after four full seasons with Australian WorldTour team Mitchelton-Scott, chose a line opposite Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and pipped his Dutch rival to claim the Stage 21 victory in front of his wife and family.
"It was quite messy and we were quite far back. I was patient and I waited," explained Ewan, who was seen fighting for position behind his Lotto lead-out Roger Kluge at 900 metres out. "I didn't actually know how many guys were in front of me, so I waited and went down the right-hand side."
"I've spoken to most sprinters that have sprinted here and they said 'don't sprint down the right-hand side', and I felt it once I moved out onto the right." - Caleb Ewan.
"It was quite bumpy. Luckily I had enough speed to come through in the end."
After falling just short on four stages inside the first 10 days of racing, including a runner-up result to Groenewegen on Stage 7, Ewan found confidence from his Stage 11 win and stormed to two more sprint victories, including Stage 16, to close out his inaugural Tour.
"When we rolled onto the Champs-Elysees, to be honest I almost had tears in my eyes when I rolled through there, it was such a surreal feeling," said Ewan. "I can't believe I just won the stage. The Tour de France started off quite slow for me. It was like I could never get there and the second half has been just unbelievable.
"Every sprint I've won has been in the second half. To be honest, I don't know what to say. I just can't believe I won on the Champs-Elysees."
The traditional procession to Paris was carried out at the normal social ride pace, with champagne and photo opportunities the name of the game in the opening kilometres.
Once the peloton reached the cobbles of the Champs-Élysées, Team Ineos was given the honour of being the first through the finish and then the race began in earnest.
Tom Scully (EF Education First), Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Merida), Omar Fraile (Astana) and Nils Pollitt (Katusha-Alpecin) were the escapees on the early laps of the cobbled circuit. The quartet never gained a significant advantage as the sprint teams were tempted by the allure of a prestigious stage win on the Champs-Élysées.
While Ewan was celebrating his third stage win, the real story of the race belonged to 22-year-old Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), who became the first Colombian to win the Tour.
Bernal's victory also gives Ineos (née Team Sky) its seventh race win in the past eight years dating back to Bradley Wiggins in 2012 followed by Chris Froome's four in the next five years. Meanwhile, Bernal's team-mate and last year's winner Geraint Thomas (GBR) finished second overall (+1:11) ahead of Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) in third (+1:31).
“It’s incredible, I don’t know what to say. I’ve won the Tour but I don’t manage to believe it. I need a couple of days to assimilate all this," Bernal said. "It’s for my family and I just want to hug them. It’s a feeling of happiness that I don’t know how to describe it."
"This is the first Tour for us, Colombians. Many Colombians have tried before, we’ve had great cyclists in the past. But I’m the first one to win the Tour! Colombia deserves it.” - Egan Bernal.
This year's Paris-Nice and Tour de Suisse winner was not the only rider to make history as three-time world road race champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) wrapped his eighth Tour wearing a record-owning seventh green points jersey after previously sharing the record with retired German cyclist Erik Zabel.
"To wear the green jersey on the podium of the Champs-Elysées is a privilege and an honour, even more so when it is for a record-breaking seventh time," said Sagan, whose team-mate Emanuel Buchmann (GER) finished fourth on GC (+1:56). "We had a very good Tour de France and we showed that each year we progress as a team, we get stronger.
"I will now take a few days off and then continue to work for the upcoming goals of the final part of the season."