Monday, 22 July 2013

Twilight in Paris - A beautiful way to finish the Tour

The plan to finish the 100th Edition of the Tour de France with a twilight spectacular from Versailles to the Champs-Élysées was a master stroke by Christian Prudhomme and the Tour organisation. It was a very balmy summer's evening but that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the animated fans who lined the streets of central Paris to cheer, wave and party the riders in the final circuits as the sun set. To me it was a scene reminiscent of the celebrations that welcomed the new Millennium 13 years was that big. Not only was the crowd pulsing to hours of revelry, the riders put on a fantastic display to encourage their fans.
David Millar's long run off the front, followed by a number of other break away attempts, kept everyone in  suspense. We had one eye on the break away and then a second eye on the sprinter's teams, who were keeping watch on the front of the speeding peloton.
The last lap was an absolute cracker, with OPQ taking an early position at the front of the race, with Cavendish nicely protected and with five of his strong men keeping the pace high and the peloton strung out. Lotto was lurking just behind, with Greipel looking strong. Cannondale were having difficulty dominating with any effect but for them they had achieved their principal goal, the Green Jersey for their enigmatic Peter Sagan. Meanwhile, Argos were sitting in behind the other sprint teams and with the wide open streets they were always in a position to move when they believed the timing was right.
The final charge by Argos was timed to perfection and reinforced this teams domination in the sprints this Tour. With 500 metres to go they charged hard and delivered their sprint king, Marcel Kittel, to the front. With 200 metres to go he lit the afterburners and immediately gapped the other sprinters. Its a difficult finale on the Champs-Elysees, its slightly uphill and its on strength-sapping cobbles, however Kittel reinforced his own confidence in his strength and was able to hold off a fast finishing Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish. Kittel was King of the Sprints this year and took home four victories for his superb team. We were fortunate to be able to share their accommodation in Lyon and catch up with Kittel's leadout man, Koen de Kort, for a beer mid-Tour.
Our group enjoyed a beautiful afternoon riding around Paris before the Tour came to town and some pics below are samples of our enjoyable but in some ways sad, last day together.
People were free to do their own thing for the night and five of us decided that rather than stand in the heat of the finishing circuit, that we would find a nice little restaurant to enjoy a meal, beer and wine in front of a television. We had all seen several finales on the Champs-Elysees in the past few years, so we felt that the air-conditioned comfort and relaxed personal celebration with friends was the preferred option. The night time setting also provided the backdrop for a fabulous light show for the presentations and following celebrations. A wonderful way to close this great Centennial Tour. For me this will be my last post and I hope that you have enjoyed the journey, I certainly have, perhaps we will do it again in 2014?

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