ROCAMDOUR, France (VN) – “It’s the biggest victory a sprinter can have.”
“If a sprinter can say at the end of their career they won on the Champs-Élysées, they’re one of the ones that I guess you could say ‘made it.’ It’s the biggest one. It’s super special.”
That’s how Caleb Ewan described the final stage of the Tour de France to VeloNews on Saturday.
Stage 21 of the Tour is the Superbowl of sprint cycling.
Freddy Maertens, Bernard Hinault, Greg LeMond and Johan Museeuw won through the 80s and 90s.
More recently, Ewan, Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Dylan Groenewegen, and Wout van Aert were first across the line on the iconic Champs-Élysées in Paris.
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This year, Ewan lines up alongside Groenewegen, Van Aert, Fabio Jakobsen and Jasper Philipsen as hot favorites for the next to add their name to the list of illustrious winners. And after that aperitif, Jonas Vingegaard will pull on yellow one last time and take the Tour title to Jumbo-Visma.
What to expect from the stage?
Tune in late, or better still, tune in early, get comfy, and set your snooze alarm.
The opening hours out of the stage from Paris La Défense Arena are all about champagne photo shoots and social catch-ups as the peloton enjoys a relative pause through the stage’s processional start.
Make sure that snooze alarm buzzes for after around 60 km of soft-pedalling – that’s when the race hits downtown Paris and the sprinters assemble.
Eight circuits tracking the Place de la Concorde, Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe see critérium style racing on a course including flat paved cobbles and a grinding uphill drag that zaps Tour-weary legs.
The pace and tension will wind with every passing circuit until the sprinters scramble for the biggest surge of their season.
Who will lead celebrations on the Champs?
Jakobsen, Groenewegen, Van Aert and Philipsen all scored already at the Tour de France and are hotly tipped to do so again Sunday.
Ewan is stark odd-man out as not yet taking the top step at this Tour.
The five-time stage winner is deep in a mid-summer malaise as his Lotto-Soudal team slumps and his leadout misfires. Victory on the Champs would save his summer and turnaround a subpar season for his team.
Pure sprinters Gronewegen, Philipsen and Jakobsen and their fully sprint-focussed squads are most likely to take the tape in Paris.
“Every sprint stage is important and if you can win one it’s really cool, but the Champs-Élysées is really special and really important,” Groenewegen told VeloNews on Saturday. “I won once [in Paris] before. That magic feeling with all the crowds and the end of the Tour. It’s an amazing feeling and the best win I think.”
The so-called “Green monster” Van Aert won three times already at this Tour, amassed five more trips to the podium, and clinched the Maillot Vert some time ago.
The Belgian’s sprint afterburners don’t fire as hot as the peloton’s purest fast finishers, but if this Tour’s proven anything, it’s that Wout is on a tear, and that Wout should never be counted out.