|Froome, Sagan and some little kid looking good on the final podium.|
Just like that - It's over. The 100th Tour de France ended with a magnificent show on the Champs-Élyseé. Everything must have been just as ASO planned it. The race was held at twilight or the first time in history. The remaining riders rode in and then did a set of circuits around central Paris to the throngs of adoring fans. As they rode into the city they followed a parade car containing the four greatest living champions in the history of Le Tour; Lemond, Indurain, Hinault and of course the great Eddy Merckx. I couldn't help but wonder how Lance Armstrong must have felt as he sat on his gigantic couch, with those 7 yellow jerseys lining the walls above it and watched as those true champions were presented in front of the cheering fans. There were attacks throughout the day once it got to the circuit, but none that looked serious enough to work. On the last lap things finally heated up and Omega Pharma Quickstep went to the front to set up their man Mark Cavendish.
Cavendish had won the previous four Tour finalé's on the Champs-Élyseé and was a favorite to do so again...although not the huge favorite he normally is. That is because the story in sprinting for this Tour has not been Cav, but the young German with the stunning Vanilla Ice hairdo - Marcel Kittel. Around 1 km to go his Argos Shimano team came roaring up the middle and forced both Cav and the ever present Sagan to the right side of the course. It appeared that the Missile was caught off guard and was forced to respond with a huge effort. Before he and the rest of the field knew it they were at 500 meters and Kittel still had support ahead. Sagan was the first to fade as Greipel and Cavendish struggled to get back on the younger German's wheel. As he started his sprint Kittel had a half a length lead. The Greilla and the Missile made up much of that difference, but it was a classic case of too little too late. In fact Cavendish nearly crashed in his effort to overtake Kittel, his front wheel skidding over the cobbles on the road and his rear wheel swinging wildly to the right. He maintained his upright position but the race was done and he was third behind Greipel and the newly crowned king of the sprint.
23 year old Marcel Kittel was one of the big revelations of this tour and his four wins have served to position him as arguably the best sprinter in the world today.
With the fans thrilled and filled with exciting racing, the stage moved to an actual stage in the middle of the road. The pomp and circumstance was at an all time high for the centenary edition of Le Tour, and they took full advantage of all of the entertainment technology available in the world today and lit the Arch de Triomphe in every jersey color possible. The final color was of course yellow and it called to the stage the newly crowned champion of Le Tour de France - Christopher Froome. He was strong and confident as he accepted his jersey, lion and bouquet. He stood proudly as God Save the Queen played throughout the capitol of France. He then read a short but sincere speech where he politely thanked all of the proper people who helped him make it to the top step of the podium and fulfill his professional dream.
It was the last line that I'll remember however, because he took the opportunity to respond to all of the doubters and haters out there in the world. He did it with class, the same way he has all race long. He simply said: "This is a beautiful country and it hosts the biggest annual sporting event on the planet. To win the 100th edition is an honour. This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time:."
For your sake and ours Chris - I hope that is true.
So the 30 somethingth TDF that I have followed in my life is in the books and what a race it was. To those who say that it was boring because Froome was so far above the rest of the field I feel sorry for you. For each days racing was incredible in it's own right. The fight for the lower podium spots went literally until the last km of the last stage ridden in anger. It was a phenomenal event that laid to rest any lingering discussion by the knownothing talking heads who said that cycling was dead in the wake of the Pharmstrong scandal. On the contrary, this race is as vibrant and strong as ever, and we'll keep one eye on the future (but perhaps one eye on the blood tests) which seems brighter than it has been in years.
Thanks for following along with my madness for the last 23 days.
For those interested in more, stay tuned for my final "Bicycling life Tour de France 2013 Awards" which will be posted over the next few days.