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Tour de France

Tour de France stage 21: Jasper Philipsen fastest in Paris as Jonas Vingegaard wins the yellow jersey

Jumbo-Visma cracked Tadej Pogačar to avenge 2020, and Geraint Thomas hits the podium as the 'best of the rest' in a thrilling race.

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Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) won the bunch sprint down the Champs-Élysées on Sunday to put an exclamation point on a thrilling and hard-fought edition of the Tour de France.

Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) finished safely in the bunch to seal his first yellow jersey following a steady and dominant performance across three weeks.

Dylan Groenwegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) crossed the line second, with Alexander Kristoff (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) coming in third.

Three weeks of wild and unpredictable racing were capped by the 115.6km final stage from Paris La Défense to the famed finishing laps of the Champs-Élysées which is part party, part genuinely nervous racing in what is one of the most spectacular stadiums in any sport.

Michael Woods (Israel-PremierTech) was a late-hour non-starter for COVID-19, and the men’s peloton arrived in Paris with its smallest number of survivors in decades.

A few packs of riders tried in vain to break free of the bunch, including a late move that included four riders, but the gap never was allowed to build to more than a half-minute. A bunch sprint was written in the stars.

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There was a wild romp on the bell lap with Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Geraint Thomas and Filippo Ganna (Ineos-Grenadiers) surging off the front to try to catch out the sprinter teams. The peloton swept around the Arc du Triomphe in single-file as the speed hit 70kph.

“I cannot believe it. It’s a childhood dream coming true. This will take a while to realize,” Philipsen said after the finish.

“I am super proud of the team that we can finish the Tour like this, it’s the cherry on the cake. It went quite well for me. I was in a great position, and Groenewegen was forced to launch early, and I could stay on his wheel, and I could do my sprint when I wanted.”

“I am happy and proud to win on this Champs-Élysées, it’s a dream for any sprinter. The Tour couldn’t be better. We had some early disappointments in this Tour, and a few things went not the way we wanted. To finish off this Tour in stage 15 and today, it’s just unbelievable.”

Jumbo-Visma avenges 2020 and Vingegaard wins Denmark’s first Tour since 1996

Riders celebrated arriving to Paris after three weeks that have some calling the best Tour in a decade.

The Dane won two stages while Jumbo-Visma dominated the race with stage wins and wily tactics to catch out two-time defending champion Tadej Pogačar in the French Alps. The victory is the first for Jumbo-Visma, and helps to ease the sting and disappointment of losing the 2020 Tour on the penultimate stage.

Van Aert won the green jersey, as well as the most combative prize, in what was an awe-inspiring performance for the Belgian all-rounder. Van Aert won time trials, stages, and climbed the highest mountains to become an invaluable ally to Vingegaard across three weeks.

Jumbo-Visma celebrates early during Sunday’s final stage. (Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

This Tour saw Pogačar on the back foot in the second half of the Tour. The Slovenian looked on track to winning his third straight yellow jersey after a near-perfect first half of racing until he cracked on the Col du Granon. Despite a series of attacks across the Alps and Pyrénées, Pogačar could not snatch back any time.

Pogačar finished second overall, won three stages, and claimed his third white jersey, and vows to sharpen his game coming into 2023.

Geraint Thomas defied expectations by riding to third to finish as the “best of the rest,” hitting his third career podium following victory in 2018 and second in 2019. Ineos Grenadiers also won the team classification.

“It means a lot,” Thomas said. “It never gets old, but to be on the podium is super nice. Just to finish is an achievement. It’s the pinnacle of the sport, so to be here is always nice. I am going to enjoy this now, and in the off-season we can discuss it with the team.”

COVID-19 was a major factor during this Tour, with more than a dozen riders being sent home with infections. Other illnesses and crashes took their inevitable toll, and only four teams arrived in Paris with all of its eight riders still in the bunch.

Riders such as Tom Pidcock (Ineos-Grenadiers) and Philipsen won their first Tour stages in dramatic fashion, while veterans like Groenewegen and Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) clawed back onto the winner’s circle. More than a few big names and teams went home with nothing.

The North American contingent shined across the Tour, with Hugo Houle (Israel-PremierTech) taking an emotional victory in the Pyrénées to win Canada’s first Tour stage since 1988, while Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) led with a solid 13th overall. Both EF Education-EasyPost and Trek-Segafredo came home with stage wins.

As soon as the Tour ended, riders and teams celebrated in Paris, and soon made plans for the remainder of the season. Some will appear in post-Tour critériums, others will head to the beach, and some click right back into the pedals for next week’s Clásica San Sebastián in Spain.

The wheel never stops turning.

The pack hits the final laps in Paris. (Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)