Tour de France Stage 21 Preview

Not just one but nine victory laps of the Champs Elysées. The final stage is part parade, part criterium and both pointless and essential.

Stage 20 Review

A win for Tony Martin. The German gave another display of power and riding the course with such control that he was in an aero tuck when others had to stand on the pedals. His win seemed inevitable, so much so that Fabian Cancellara quit the race weeks ago. But it was still impressive to watch, he’s mastered the art. Others have mentioned it before but it’s worth stressing his narrow shoulders and the way they slope down; the polar opposite of Belkin’s Steven Kruijswijk who has shoulders like a cattle yoke.

But the second race was more captivating with three riders in search of a podium finish. Jean-Christophe Péraud won this contest despite a puncture on the way. Alejandro Valverde was the loser, down at the first time check and struggling more and more. It was conceivable he’d have planned to start very fast as a ruse to make Péraud and Pinot respond and duly crack but the conception was more conceit and he finished fourth, ending a final week where he’s looked tired. Tony Martin might have won the stage but his victory was expected. To see both Péraud and Pinot promised a podium finish is something astonishing, a tribute to both of them.

Romain Bardet ends up sixth overall, pipped by two seconds thanks to a puncture and a mechanical plus several other problems (his power metre wasn’t working, nor his race radio). But it takes two to switch and Tejay van Garderen rode a very solid time trial… if only he”d eaten more solid foods on the way to Luchon earlier this week he could be standing on the podium. Then again you see Péraud and see how many names have years to get it right.

Amid all this Vincenzo Nibali is almost an afterthought. But only because he’s in such a certain place, he is promised the win and only the cruellest of tragedies can deny him today, just as it was yesterday too.

The Route: a Parisian classic with the race starting in the Orge valley before heading into the city to lap the Champs Elysées. There’s little point detailing the strategic elements except to say the race uses the full length of les champs, like last year. As ever there’s a slight rise to the road and it’s cobbled, obviously the urban variety of pavé but a different feeling.

  • Pointless: because we know who has won the Tour de France and half of the stage is a victory parade, a procession
  • Essential: because it crowns the victor and provides the prestigious backdrop. After weeks touring rural France here is the capital’s seal of approval

The Scenario: it might start out as fun and games but it ends with some of the fiercest racing all year. Just ask Lieuwe Westra who started the final stage last year but could not finish. We’ve also seen some riders attack to improve their GC position although it’s hard to imagine Romain Bardet outriding Tejay van Garderen today. Talking of likely outcomes, expect to see Vincenzo Nibali in full yellow kit today with matching shorts and bike.

The Contenders: almost the sprinters’ world championships the finish is usually reserved for the fast men although there have been upsets from time to time and today’s chance of rain might just alter the story.

If not then can Marcel Kittel repeat last year’s success? He’s looked stuffed since the Alps but two day of relative restraint might mean he’s back in action. I certainly think Giant-Shimano will back him.

Alexander Kristoff is the “freshness” card. If you think Kittel is cooked then Kristoff has yet to pass his best before date. The Norwegian seems to prefer the tough conditions and could take his third stage win.

Next is André Greipel who has the speed and power for a stage win but hasn’t had the luck so far. He’s got one win but might be placed to take more. Then comes Peter Sagan, still hunting for a stage win to avoid Thor Hushovd’s 2005 feat of winning the green jersey without a stage win. Of course winning the jersey is impressive and the whole point of the competition is to reward regularity ahead of speed but still, a win would suit him. But watch Elia Viviani too, maybe Cannondale repay his support role, he has the leg speed to surprise.

Among the others would you rule out a French rider? Arnaud Démare does seem tired but could find FDJ back in his service and the finish does suit him. While Bryan Coquard and Kévin Reza will be there too.

Marcel Kittel, Alexander Kristoff, André Greipel
Peter Sagan
Elia Viviani, Bryan Coquard, Arnaud Démare
Mark Renshaw

Weather: sunny but a chance of a thunderstorm on the Champs Elysées. Rain and cobbles don’t mix well.

TV: note the late finish, expected for 7.20pm Euro time or two hours later than usual. But tune in early for La Course, the women’s race. I was going to do a separate preview but cyclingtips has everything and more. The women race between 12.50pm and 2.45pm, it’ll be on the same channel you’ve been watching the Tour and should feature live footage from on-bike cams too.

29 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 21 Preview”

  1. When was the last time ag2r won a teams classification at a grand tour! How the times have changed, great to see the brown shorts brigade doing well

  2. Merci beaucoup, Mr. Inrng for your fine coverage of this year’s Tour. I looked forward to it every day and thought about it from time to time while watching each stage. Thanks, too, to the comments crew, without whom La Tour wouldn’t have been half as much fun. Can’t wait to see the grand finale on the Champs!

  3. Sir, Thank you for your insightful views of the Tour. I only hope that we can believe in Nibali’s performance. His pace up the Hautacam reminded me of past tours with sad outcomes.

  4. Let me add my note of appreciation for your daily previews and other fascinating articles; this site has greatly added to my enjoyment of not only le Tour but pro cycling in general.

  5. Thanks to those saying thanks above.

    Two things:
    – it’s not the end of the season! There’s more to come
    – if you want to say thanks in other way, click on the ad from Trek above

    Sponsorship of the site has helped fund detours to visit stages, it’s why I knew the roads for many of the stages in this race including yesterday’s time trial as well as some smaller surprises like the Col de Palaquit or the gravelly roads to Oyonnax.

  6. Is it that Tony’s shoulders naturally somehow slope down, or more that he has learned (probably in the wind tunnel) to lift his back up, rotating his shoulders down to keep his arms on the bars?

    • I think he’s naturally like this but has worked on the position. When he’s walking around you can see his shoulders and neck are slightly different. This is an advantage but only one element, a detail.

    • My profession has been Sports Medicine/Physical Therapy/Athletic Training. Anatomical characteristics of riders play a significant role in aerodynamics on a TT bike. In years past I blogged endlessly about why Andy Schleck could never be “made” into a great TT – it’s his odd anatomical (skeletal) proportions.

      Tony Martin indeed has shoulders that slope downwards; he also has a long neck (cervical spine) which gives him increased flexibility in his upper extremity. His anatomical attributes, combined with extensive training for TTs, exceptional endurance, power and strength all give him a “perfect” package for winning TTs. Working with Specialized performance experts in the wind tunnel only adds to what he was born with. Additionally, speed/power/endurance athletes have an advantageous ratio of fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers in their legs. This is another physical attribute he was born with.

      He will continue to excel in TTs until his body is old enough that he can’t fight what age brings on.

      Bottom line: he’s a born “lucky son-of-a-gun!”

      • Makes me think of this(it’s not about anatomy, but the brain):I’ve read somewhere that japanese docs examined Neymars brain and found significant differences which enable him to do his fast moves. He can do them in autopilotmode and has therefore brain capacity left while dribbling (although I can’t judge if this is bs or not). I wondered if it is similar with sprinters. I noticed some of them seem to experience certain points in the sprint in slow motion and in perfect clearness where we only see chaos. I myself experienced something like this while having an accident. The moments between the point I knew we would crash and the crash itself seemed to lengthen in a strange, unnatural way and in this survivalmode I perceived time and movement in a different way.

        • Nina, what you read is not bs: “The findings were published in the Swiss journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience following a series of motor skills tests carried out on the 22-year-old Neymar [Brazil] and several other athletes in Barcelona in February this year…Researcher Eiichi Naito told AFP…he concluded in his paper that the test results “provide valuable evidence that the football brain of Neymar recruits very limited neural resources in the motor-cortical foot regions during foot movements.”

          “Asked whether Neymar’s Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi or Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo might display similar test results, Naito said: “It is fair to assume they would show similar levels given their footwork and technique.”

          “Reduced brain activity means less burden which allows (the player) to perform many complex movements at once.” – Naito, Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology

          These types of brain scans and motor skills tests would find similar results in highly trained athletes, as they perform similar movement patterns over and over and over. It just means that their brains recruit less nerve cells (neurons) to perform complex movements in their sport. Neymar’s brain is not different than other highly trained athletes.

          You say, “…some of them (sprinters) seem to experience certain points in the sprint in slow motion and in perfect clearness where we only see chaos. You can’t know what they are experiencing unless they tell you or you’ve read that they said this. If you’ve read that some sprinters report experiencing this, then my apologies.

          What you describe as your experience before a crash (bike or auto?) is what many people report as an accident is occurring. I experienced the very same thing during an auto accident. Time slowed significantly, I knew my car was going to flip over, all fear left my mind and the breaking of glass, the flipping of the car, etc. all happened in “slow motion.” It’s our body’s way of protecting ourselves. The brain experiences trauma like this very differently than everyday “normal” occurrences. I remember feeling so grateful that I had no fear during this horrific accident as it was happening, and the “slow motion” allowed my brain to fully experience every part of the accident from beginning to end, albeit in an altered, slowed state.

          As soon as my car stopped moving and was lying on its roof, panic set in and I was then in shock, “fight or flight” syndrome and all fear returned. Pure panic. I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the vehicle as we were upside down and I was disoriented. Brain was back in “reality,” though with high adrenaline > shock > fight or flight, etc.

          Yes, we “perceive time and movement in a different way” during traumatic events. Thank God for that!

  7. Some riders are “aerodynamically gifted” to begin with but there are position changes you can learn to use while riding to eek out some more speed as well as of course making positional set up changes to help with air flow dynamics. It’s a long and iterative process to improve aerodynamics, but worth it when speed is a premium.

  8. Thanks so much for adding to the enjoyment of the races through out the season. For some one like me who shoots from the hip. Voices an opinion without 1st engaging brain, it’s good to read stuff by someone who see’s a lot of what is going on, I am Lebusque! Today i would love to see the French National jersey streak across the line in front of everyone, if not Andre Greips he’s a decent fella and it would be great to see him win. Echoing one of the photos i’ve seen some where on the t’internet Riders we Thankyou. Cheers fella

  9. Thanks for the fantastic previews throughout the tour and the entire season. Great insight and it really adds to the race. Very grateful.

  10. For today I’d like a win for the maillot vert, but maybe Sagan is to desparate for the win and then I think one of the usual suspects (Greipel, Kristoff, Kittel) will make it. Nice one for Mariane Vos.

  11. I enjoyed this Tour, but respect those that didn’t. The overall was indeed decided early, but the podium and each stage of racing proved to be exciting. This stuff never gets old and I look forward the races ahead.

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