Mark Cavendish (Sky) took his fourth consecutive victory on the Champs-Élysées, although after the traditional final stage frolicking finished, a determined breakaway didn’t make it easy for the world champion.
Almost as soon as the peloton hit the famous boulevard the first attacks went away, with the first real selection containing 11 riders – Rui Costa (Movistar), Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Sebastien Minard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol), Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Jean-Marc Marino (Saur-Sojasun), Karsten Kroon (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Bram Tankink (Rabobank) and Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Katusha). They quickly organised themselves into a line, sharing the pacemaking evenly. A gap of over 20 seconds was opened up, with no one looking overly intent on helping Sky’s Christian Knees on the front of the peloton.
With three laps remaining, the gap stayed above 20 seconds, but appeared to be falling rather rapidly. All of a sudden, the oldest man in the race – Jens Voigt – attacked out of the front, accompanied by Minard and Costa. As the rest of the break disintegrated and slotted back into the single-file peloton, the plucky lead trio started to make life hard for the sprinters’ teams behind.
However, it wasn’t enough. As the final circuit of the Champs-Élysées started the break were desperately clinging to their ever-decreasing advantage, with Liquigas and Saxo Bank aiding the chase behind. With 2½km to go, it was all back together – a sprint was inevitable.
Sky lined up perfectly. Mick Rogers headed the bunch, peeling away with yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins, Edvald Boasson Hagen and then Cavendish behind. Surely, the Manx Missile wouldn’t misfire. He didn’t. Despite Saxo Bank and Orica-GreenEDGE doing their best to disrupt Sky’s train, Cavendish opted for an early burst of speed as he rounded the final corner with some 350 metres to the line. It was more than enough to see him take yet another win on the final stage of the Tour de France, with Liquigas’ Peter Sagan squeezed out wide inside the final few hundred metres.
VeloVoices rider of the day
A slightly odd choice, perhaps, but I am going to award the coveted rider of the day award to Sky’s Christian Knees. The former German national champion has been one of the unsung heroes of Wiggins’ team, endlessly tapping out the rhythm on the front of the peloton throughout the race – and doing the same again today. His chasing was important in catching a stubborn breakaway, and without which the bunch sprint might never have occurred.
Cycling is a sport full of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct, and after ‘Tack-gate’ earlier on in the Tour, there was another demonstration today. Riding his final ever Tour de France, BMC’s George Hincapie was allowed to ride on the front of the peloton for the first circuit of the Champs – an honour usually reserved for the team of the maillot jaune. Hincapie wasn’t able to get himself into the day’s breakaway, but I’m sure he’ll never forget the sensation of tearing down the boulevard for the final time.
It was interesting to see Sax0 Bank with a full lead-out train for J J Haedo near the end of the stage, with their Argentinian sprinter eventually finishing in fourth place. They have been relatively anonymous in other bunch sprints throughout the Tour, so to pop up and finish highly will be a pleasant surprise for Bjarne Riis’ outfit.
On the flip-side, Lotto-Belisol had a miserable day, with Andre Greipel only finishing eighth. Still, at least they can console themselves with having won three times during this Tour, unlike Orica-GreenEDGE who haven’t taken a single stage. Matthew Goss was second today, and is looking increasingly like he will be a perennial runner-up.
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