It’s one of the saddest days of the year for cycling fans: After three weeks of intense racing through some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe, the Tour de France has come to an end. For winner Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and the rest of his Astana team, it was one of their happiest days ever. They were so happy, in fact, that they decided to toast each other during the final stage with a few glasses of champagne.
“They’ll just touch it to their lips,” the NBCSN broadcast announcers said.
Nope, they gulped it down, which would seem like a bad idea if the racers were going full tilt, but as is tradition at the start of the 21st and final stage, the pace is slow, like a victory lap.
However, once the riders reached Paris, the pace picked up as the riders vied to win the 22,500 Euro (roughly $30,000) prize that comes with winning a stage.
While there was no danger of anyone catching Nibali, who started the stage with a nearly eight-minute lead, a crash threatened to shuffle up the rest of the podium with just 43 kilometers to go. Runner up Jean-Christophe Peraud of Ag2r-La Mondiale went down when his front tire slipped on a cobblestone curve, losing his second-place spot to fellow Frenchman Thibault Pinot of FDJ.fr. However, as is custom in the tour, podium spots aren’t supposed to change during the last stage, especially because of bad luck. So, the peloton slowed down to allow Peraud to catch up. Now, that’s sportsmanship.
But the real excitement occurred in the last three kilometers, when the race turned into an all-out sprint. Cyclists were riding so fast at times making laps around the Arc de Triomphe that they broke the city speed limits that cars are supposed to follow.
In the end, German Marcel Kittel of Giant-Shimano beat out the stiff competition and took home his fourth stage win. This was also the second year in a row that Kittel won the final stage.
— peloton magazine (@pelotonmagazine) July 27, 2014
The top American still in the race, BMC’s Tejay van Garderen, finished in a very respectable fifth place overall at 11 minutes and 44 seconds behind Nibali.
Now, hopefully all 164 cyclists who finished the race, which started with 198 riders, can share in a little champagne. They certainly deserve it.