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July 23, 2016 – Since 1975, the last stage of the Tour de France #TDF has always finished on the Champs-Élysées in the heart of Paris. And except for a handful occasions—solo wins were scored by Jeff Pierce in 1987, Eddy Seigneur in 1994 and Alexander Vinokourov in 2005—the stage has always been won by a sprinter. (In this image from the 2005 Tour, future stage winner Vinokourov can be seen close to the front in the light-blue helmet and jersey of the Kazakh champ.)
#PelotonShorts by John Wilcockson/Photo by Yuzuru Sunada
Although the race is due for another breakaway winner, all the signs point to yet another mass sprint. There are three main reasons for this assessment: 1. A record number of 175 riders is starting this final stage, a fact that makes it harder to make attacks; 2. Four teams with strong sprinters have yet to win a stage of this 103rd Tour de France (#TDF2016)—Cofidis (Christophe Laporte), Direct Énergie (Bryan Coquard), Fortuneo-Vital Concept (Dan McLay) and Lotto NL-Jumbo (Dylan Groenewegen)—and will all be working to get their sprinters near the front; and 3. Six other teams with even stronger sprinters will be closing down any attacks and getting ready to lead out their fast men—Etixx-Quick Step (Marcel Kittel), Giant-Alpecin (John Degenkolb), Katusha (Alexander Kristoff), Lotto-Soudal (André Greipel), Orica-BikeExchange (Michael Matthews), and Tinkoff (Peter Sagan). Greipel and Kittel are the only ones to have previously won on the Champs-Élysées.
After riding the first half of the 113-kilometer stage 21 from Chantilly through the suburbs, the peloton will complete eight full laps of the 6.8-kilometer circuit up the Champs-Élysées, around the Arc de Triomphe, back down the avenue and around the Tuileries Gardens. Three hours before the men arrive on the circuit a field of top women pros will contest the third edition off La Course (by Le Tour de France) over 13 laps of the same circuit for a distance of 89 kilometers.