Corbeil-Essonnes, July 29
The questions that we were asking three weeks ago have since found their answers, questions about race contenders Armstrong, Ullrich, Heras and Casagrande; about Zabel, the man seeking a sixth green jersey, and Laurent Jalabert, the flag-carrier of French cycling. The report card is ready, and we now know whether the American has become a three-time Tour winner, matching his compatriot Greg LeMond.
We also know how the race shaped up, and whether the organizers dealt us some winning cards. “This will be a very complete Tour, with a prologue, 10 flat stages, three semi-mountain stages, four high-mountain stages finishing at altitude, and three time trials and a team time trial,” they announced in October 2000, at the official presentation. Nine months later, what have the racers done with this course, which led them into Belgium, the Vosges, the Alps, the Pyrenees and Corrèze? Have they proven its completeness? Have they betrayed it, by attacking at unexpected places and neglecting the high passes?
Today we have a winner, and right now he is riding up the Champs-Elysées, the yellow jersey on his back, while the sprinters’ teams are stretching out the peloton for the final time. Though the final placings are sealed, the Paris stage remains in play, each year more competitive than the last! At the bell, they are rolling at almost 60 kph … already turning below the Arc de Triomphe … have passed along the riverside and moved onto the Rue de Rivoli. Now it’s the Place de la Concorde — and the sprint! There’s a shout! The 2001 Tour is done!