Sunday, 27 July 2014
Marcel Kittel won his second successive stage on the Champs Elysée having won last year. This time he beat Alexander Kristoff into second place. Kristoff was in the lead as the line approached by Kittel had his characteristic strength to put in a last spurt in the fianl 50 metres or so that moved him clear and won the stage. This takes Marcel Kittel's overall stage total to 8 – 4 wins in 2013 and 4 this year, so he is beginning to move into exalted company!
Vincenzo Nibali was duly crowned as the 2014 Tour de France winner. There was no change overall, although the time gaps have changed as little as Nibali made sure he rode over the finishing line with his team, so Jean-Christophe Peraud, for instance, gained a few seconds. When you are leading by well over seven minutes a few seconds lost on the final stage changes nothing.
Nibali has now won all three Grand Tours – France, Italy and Spain. He joins only five other riders who have managed this feat: Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault and Alberto Contador.
Nibali is a very worthy winner – he has clearly been the best rider in this year's Tour. You can speculate what would have happened if Chris Froome and Alberto Contador hadn't crashed out of this year's Tour but what is important is that Nibali finished and they didn't. I fancy that if Froome hadn't crashed and injured himself on Stage 4 from Le Touquet to Lille, it is very likely that he would have lost considerable time to Nibali on the cobbles the next day.
Le Tour 2014 has been great for France with two French riders on the podium – Jean-Christophe Peraud and Thibaut Pinot along with Romain Bardet in sixth. Of course, Pinot also has the White Jersey as the best young rider.
The Tour de France continues to become increasingly global with Ramunas Navardauskas as the first Lithuanian stage winner and Rafa Majka as Poland's first winner of the Climbers' Jersey. Ji Cheng, clear winner of La Lanterne Rouge at 6.02:24 down on Nibali, is the first Chinese rider to compete in the Tour and the first to finish.
Earlier in the day Marianne Vos deservedly won the first La Course - the race on the Champs Elysée for women. See details here.
Stage 21: Evry to Paris Champs Elysées 137.5 kms
Today the riders cover the last 137.5 kilometres of the 3653 km total of the 2014 Tour de France. It will be a procession and celebration until the peloton reaches the Champs Elysées, where the racing will begin. The stage tends to finish in a bunch sprint. Marcel Kittel won last year beating André Griepel and Mark Cavendish. Will Kittel win again this year. Quite probably but it depends on how tired he is after the mountains. If it isn't Marcel then I'll go for either Griepel or Alexander Kristoff, who has already won two stages.
Barring accidents the Jerseys and the podium places have been decided with Vincenzo Nibali, the overall winner of the 2014 Tour and Jean-Christophe Peraud second and Thibaut Pinot third wearing the White Jersey as Best Young Rider. Peter Sagan is the easy winner of the Green Points Jersey, while Rafa Majka has the Climbers' Jersey.
This is a race for women and will be held on the Champs Elysées over 90 kilometres. It will precede the men's stage and the is result of a successful campaign to reintroduce a women's race at the same time as the Tour as used to be the case in the past. It is hoped that the La Course 2014 will be start of a annual women's French stage race.
World Champion Marianne Vos is the favourite.
Saturday, 26 July 2014
As expected Tony Martin dominated today's time trial winning by 1:39 from Tom Demoulin and with only two other riders within two minutes of him. One of these being Vincenzo Nibali, who rode conservatively at the beginning speeding up in the second part of the course. As I rather suspected Jean-Christophe Peraud took the second place from Thibaut Pinot despite a puncture, although Pinot did a good ride. AGR2R Le Mondial had bad luck having two punctures. The second cost young Romain Bardet his fifth place as Tejay Van Garderen moved ahead of him by just two seconds. Even so it has been a great Tour de France for the French. The big disappointment today was Alejandro Valverde who lost a lot of time to both Peraud and Pinot, although he does keep his 4th place.
This afternoon's victory takes Tony Martin's Tour stage wins to four. See updated list of stage winners from 1903 to 2014 here.
Vincenzo Nibali extended his lead to 7:58 – it is a long time since a Tour winner has had such a margin. It is also 30 years since there have been two French riders – Peraud and Pinot – on the podium in Paris, barring accidents during the last stage. The last time was in 1984 when Laurent Fignon won the Tour with Bernard Hinault in second and Greg Lemond in third. Of course Pinot has the white jersey as the Best Young Rider.
Stage 20: Bergerac to Perigueux 54 km time trial
Today's 54-kilometre time trial is the last crucial Tour stage for the overall contenders and it is a tough one. The course undulates throughout with very few flat sections, so it will suit a powerful time triallist. World Time Trial Champion Tony Martin is the clear favourite. He has no problem climbing as his long solo victory in the Vosges showed.
The real battle is going to be for the final placings in the Top 10, especially the remaining two places on the podium in Paris with only fifteen seconds between Thibaut Pinot in 2nd place, Jean-Christophe Peraud (3rd) and Alejandro Valverde in 4th. It would be good to see both Frenchmen Pinot and Peraud on the podium but it is very difficult to call who will be on the steps. It is also possible that if some of them have a really bad day that Tejay Van Garderen on a good ride could move further up the order than imagined.
Météo France is forecasting sunshine with some clouds, although some previews are suggesting rain in the morning with the weather clearing up in the afternoon.
Overall standings after Stage 19