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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of the final stage of the Tour de France.
After three long weeks in the saddle, the peloton arrives in Paris. The day’s is 102.km from Longjumeau to the Champs-Elysees, where we can expect a frenetic finish in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe.
The peloton rolls through the neutral zone in Longjumeau at a relaxed pace ahead, and we can expect it to be like that for quite some time after the flag drops.
Lots of laughing faces and friendly chats going on. Numbers one and two Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck are having quite a good time with one another.
Here's an odd situation. RadioShack appeared in new jerseys for this stage. They are solid black and on the back, have the rider's name and a large 28. That stands for the 28 million people around the world suffering from cancer, we are told.
The problem? The race jury says they can't wear them!
SInce the riders weren't wearing the regular kit, they could be disqualified and removed from the race, the jury said.
So all of the riders had to pick up regular jerseys from the Team car. What did they do? Just slipped them over the black jerseys.
And the jury had something to say about that, too! The numbers must be visible, or else -- you guessed it -- disqualification!
So far they haven't re-pinned their numbers. And Armstrong has very much of a "We are not amused" look on his face.
Now Michael Rogers of HTC-Columbia has moved up for a chat with Contador. Behind them Schleck is deep in conversation with someone we can't see.
Contador is not really all in yellow today. His shoes and socks are still white. Otherwise, he is quite yellow......
The RadioShack riders have finally decided the race jury wasn't joking. Popovych and a teammate have pulled over and started changing clothes.
The tempo is quite slow right now, so the RS riders can take their time. Other riders take advantage of the opportunity for a nature break.
Who hasn't yet stopped to change his numbers? Armstrong. Would the race jury really dare to disqualify the seven-time winner?
Armstrong is still looking very glum-faced at the rear of the peloton as he makes the final adjustments to his kit. Still no numbers mind. It's worth noting that UP Postal wore a special kit for the final stage of centenary Tour and didn't have to change. The climate has shifted significantly in recent times it seems. It seems today that the commissaires are the hammer and Armstrong is the nail. It's been a rough three weeks for the American.
The flag is dropped finally, but Armstrong is held up at the rear now having his numbers pinned on. All of the other RadioShack riders had to sit on the roadside and pin their own numbers, but the team hierarchy is clear here. Not an auspicious start to Armstrong's last day in the Tour de France.
Yaroslav Popovych paces Armstrong back up to an ambling peloton. Alessandro Petacchi is on the front in his green jersey chewing the fat with Alexander Vinokourov.
Livestrong-gate seems to have been resolved now. Who knows where those black jerseys will end up. Ebay?
That's about as much drama as we're likely to have between now and the Champs Elysees. For now the 170 survivors of the race are content to ride at a very relaxed pace, as per tradition.
The last stage of the Tour wasn't always like this, of course. In the first post-war Tour of 1947, for instance the last stage was a bit of an epic.
It went from Caen to Paris and Frenchman Jean Robic was lying third overall, 2:58 behind Italy’s Pierre Brambilla. Robic attacked on the short climb to the village of Bonsecours outside Rouen and rode to the finish in the Parc des Princes with Eduoard Fachleitner to take the yellow jersey for the first time in that Tour.
Legend has it that Brambilla buried his bike when he went home such was his disgust. It's hard to envisage that happening to Alberto Contador today. He's now having the obligatory winner's glass of champagne and hamming it up shyly for the cameras.
Contador hasn't spilled a drop as he weaves his way throught the cars. There seem to be no end to this man's talents.
The five remaining Footon-Servetto riders are on the head of the bunch now. They sent a team of debutants to the Tour, so they'll all be especially pleased to reach the Champs-Elysees.
Anthony Charteau (Bbox) looks particularly pleased to be draped in the polka dots of King of the Mountains. He is the first Frenchman to bring a jersey to Paris since Richard Virenque won the same competition in 2004.
Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck "attack" from the peloton and then quickly sit up. The two are now shaking hands and engaging in a bit of mutual back slapping in front of the bunch for the benefit of the cameras.
Laurent Fignon will not be enjoying this. He doesn’t think it’s the done thing for rivals to be friends, at least during their careers. “What we’ve seen on this Tour between the two favourites is inconceivable,” Fignon told L’Equipe this morning. “Cycling can’t be a thing between friends. The competition has to be merciless, especially once the race is started. Nothing should then stop it. I never fell into Bernard Hinault or Greg LeMond’s arms! When you’re rivals, you can’t like each other, you mustn’t like each other. It’s not healthy.”
Fignon always offers an interesting and forthright opinion on the Tour, and his take on this year’s race and the dynamics of the Contador-Schleck relationship is fascinating. “Contador manipulated Schleck by playing with him on a psychological level. He compensated for his bad spells with great mental strength and by bigging up their friendship. Over the course of the Tour, he succeeded in making his rival switch off."
Andy Schleck is now munching on a bag of Haribo Sweets at the back of the bunch. Fignon would have a field day!
The peloton is continuing to meander towards Paris with various teams taking it in turns to drift to the front for a spell in front of the cameras. Rabobank's orange and blue is up there now. The Dutch outfit have had a very decent Tour, landing Denis Menchov on the podium and Robert Gesink into 6th place.
World Champion Cadel Evans is back talking with Dr. Gerard Porte at the rear of the field. The Australian is not receiving attention, he just seems to be explaining to the doctor just how he's managed to finish the Tour with a broken elbow. Evans' show of bravery has been one of the great stories of this Tour, and given the way the race panned out, he must surely be wondering what he might have done were it not for his injury.
Charteau is still grinning from ear to ear in his polka dot jersey. There has been some scoffing that his win was based on an opportunistic breakaway and that 44th overall at 1:24:12 is no place for the best climber of the Tour. While there is a merit in that argument, the sad fact is that it's a long, long time since the King of the Mountains competition rewarded the best climber in the Tour de France. Charteau simply saw his chance and took it, with some brave and clever riding off the front.
The King of the Mountains classification probably hasn't seen a genuine battle between the top climbers in the Tour since the late 1980s, when Luis Herrera ruled the roost and had the likes of Gert-Jan Theunisse to compete with. A crippling blow was struck to the competition's credibility with the arrival of Marco Pantani. The Italian, far and away the top climber of his generation, showed no interest in the competition and focused on the overall. Even in 1995, when injury and disastrous time-trialling curtailed his yellow jersey ambitions, Pantani was happy to let Richard Virenque chase the primes while he won stages at Alpe d'Huez and Guzet Neige.
Thor Hushovd and Christophe Moreau are locked in conversation in the middle of the bunch. Moreau may have had as many farewells as Sinatra (or Armstrong) but today would genuinely appear to be his last ever stage in a very lengthy and sometimes very controversial Tour de France career. He is the last surviving member of the 1998 Festina Tour team in the peloton, hard to believe that twelve years have passed since that supposed watershed moment...
Thor Hushovd trails Alessandro Petacchi by 10 points in the race for the green jersey, but Petacchi may well be just as concerned about Mark Cavendish, who looms a further six points back. Logic suggests the Manxman can't possibly peg that gap back today, but it will be interesting to see if he contests the intermediate sprints on today's stage.
Petacchi would of course be a somewhat controversial winner of the green jersey. He was placed under formal investigation for doping before the race but his Lampre team did not see fit to withdraw him their line-up.
We're approaching the entry to Paris now and the pace will start to pick up in around 10km. We approach the city centre from the southwest, passing through Issy-les-Moulineaux and Boulogne-Billancourt, along the Seine across from the Eiffel Tower and on to the famous finishing circuit on the Champs Elysees.
If Mark Cavendish wins today, he'll become the first man to win on the Champs Elysees two years in a row.
The Manx rider would not be the first double winner on the famous avenue of course. Bernard Hinault, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov and Robbie McEwen have all taken the honours under the Arc de Triomphe on two occasions.
Indeed, Robbie McEwen is still battling in this Tour and is chasing the outright record of Champs-Elysees victories. The Australian fastman is lying in 165th place, over four hours down. He's done remarkably well to finish this Tour and be competitive in the sprints given his crashes in the opening week.
The peloton comes past the offices of Tour organiser A.S.O.
Astana come to the front of the peloton now as it ambles along the Voie Georges Pompidou. They're on the banks of the Seine, with the Eiffel Tower just a little bit ahead. The 170 survivors can sense the end is close now.
The France Television helicopter has brought us some spectacular overhead shots these past three weeks, but this aerial view of Paris is as magnificent as anything we've seen on our way around. It truly is a sumptuous setting for the end of this great race.
Astana are upping the pace a little now to put on a bit of a show as we approach the finishing circuit.
The peloton cross the Place de la Concorde for the first time under the watchful gaze of Joan of Arc. There are always enormous crowds here for the last day of the Tour and this year is no different.
Astana string things out on the Champs-Elysees as we pass through the finish line for the first time.
The peloton rides up the stinging false flat of the Champs-Elysees and swings around at the Arc the Triomphe.
The race within a race starts here. A lot of riders will be looking to get into the break that generally goes clear until the last lap or so.
George Hincapie (BMC) punctured just as the race reached the Champs-Elysees but he's just caught the back of the bunch.
Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) accelerates hard and brings a six-man group a little way clear of the peloton.
Cervelo are on the front trying to close things down ahead of the first intermediate sprint, but it looks like they're too late. Aleksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas) manages to stay clear to take the points before it all comes together again. No change in the green jersey classification after the first sprint.
A nine-man break has now managed to forge clear on the cobblestones, but they'll have the work cut out to get clear. The pace is picking up behind.
Almost inevitably, Sandy Casar (FDJ) is up there. The Frenchman has been a fixture in so many breakaways in this Tour, he has ridden with considerable panache over the past three weeks. His teammate Anthony Roux is in the break too.
Danilo Hondo (Lampre) is in the break too, an interesting tactic for Alessandro Petacchi's pilot. They have 16 seconds over the peloton.
The eleven in front are: Anthony Roux (FDJ), Sandy Casar (FDJ), Danilo Hondo (Lampre), Karsten Kroon (BMC), Christian Knees (Milram), Nikki Sorensen (Saxo Bank), Tony Martin (HTC), Remi Pauriol (Cofidis), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r), Alan Perez Laudun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Ruben Perez Arrieta (Footon-Servetto).
The fouth of nine laps of the Champs-Elysees under the wheels for the breakaway group. Tony Martin won't contribute much as HTC are pulling behind, and similarly, Danilo Hondo is up here protecting his leader Petacchi's interests.
Pauriol is riding especially hard on the front of the lead group. Cofidis will be desperate to salvage something from this Tour especially as the other French teams have had such success.
The gap is out to 21 seconds now, but with Sky and HTC-Columbia drilling on the front, it's hardly likely to stretch out too much beyond that.
Christophe Riblon zips to the front on the Rue de Rivoli and the gap goes out to 25 seonds.
Casar and Roux go to the front for Francaise des Jeux as they come on to the Champs Elysees for the fifth time. This is a very decent group.
Alberto Contador is safely ensconced in the bunch in his yellow jersey. He has clearly not been in best of form during this Tour, and it may ultimately have been something of a lost opportunity for Andy Schleck.
Jean-Francois Bernard certainly made an interesting point in L’Equipe in relation to yesterday’s time trial. “Contrary to what you might hear, Andy Schleck did not ride the time trial of his life. He is in his correct place in the classification, behind a rider like Samuel Sanchez, who rode in the same racing conditions as him. The real surprise of the day was the poor performance of Alberto Contador.”
25km to go and 25 seconds in hand for the eleven in front as they swing around the corner under the Arc de Triomphe.
Kroon led Casar and Knees through the second intermediate sprint, meaning that so long as Petacchi keeps Hushovd and Cavendish in sight at the finish, the green jersey will be his.
Sky are chasing hard on the front of the peloton. The British line up arrived at the race amid much fanfare but have ridden a very disappointing race, encapsulated by the stage to Avoriaz, when the team went to the front of the race to set the pace and succeeding only in putting leader Bradley Wiggins in difficulty. They'll be hoping Edvald Boasson Hagen can be competitive in the sprint today.
Danilo Hondo isn't contributing much at the front of the group. Casar and co. won't want to tow him to the line.
HTC and Sky are riding hard in the smooth right hand gutter of the Champs-Elysees as they climb towards the Arc de Triomphe. Meanwhile, the break up front is spread across the cobbles.
The gap is starting to come down slightly now. 16 seconds, in spite of the best efforts of Pauriol and the hyper-aggressive Francaise des Jeux duo of Casar and Roux.
Tony Martin is sitting on the back of the breakaway as his HTC teammates work behind. His companions are paying no heed for now and are still working well together.
Every time that Casar or Pauriol goes to the front of the group, the pace seems to rise a notch.
Two laps of the circuit to go and a 17-second lead for the plucky escapees.
Knees attacks down the right hand side on the drag up to the Arc de Triomphe. It seems a senseless move, with a 16-second lead they surely need to work together.
Knees, Kroon and Sorensen have a little gap on their fellow escapees, but surely they would have done better to have kept on working as a group.
Bert Grabsch and Maxime Monfort are doing a lot of work for HTC-Columbia on the front.
The peloton is still struggling to get on terms with this fractured breakaway.
The peloton is sweeping up the remnants of the breakaway, while Knees, Kroon and Sorensen still have 15 seconds over the peloton.
On to the last lap and the pace shoots up accordingly. The trio in front will soon be caught.
All back together even before the bunch reaches the turn at the Arc de Triomphe.
HTC-Columbia lead them safely around that bend. Meanwhile, Alberto Contador seems relaxed midway down the peloton.
The bunch is thundering back down the Champs-Elysees now. It will take a very strong man to jump clear at this point.
Petacchi rides shoulder to shoulder with Mark Cavendish. A sprint royal awaits us.
The black jerseys of Sky are massed at the front.
Carlos Barredo makes a desperate bid to jump clear before the tunnel, but Flecha closes him down easily.
Sky still leading it out down the Rue de Rivoli. Flecha and Thomas in front.
Under the red kite and Lampre get their train going.
Klier leads it out for Hushovd.
But Cavendish jets past him!
Another fantastic win on the Champs-Elysees for Cavendish. He wins easing up, with Alessandro Petacchi taking second and the green jersey. Julian Dean grabs third.
In the final straight, it was Klier leading out Hushovd, with Petacchi and Cavendish in his wheel. Just as Hushovd kicked, Cavendish shot out from behind Petacchi and took a very, very comfortable victory. Nobody else was ever going to win that stage.
Alberto Contador crosses the line safely in yellow to take his third Tour de France victory, 39 seconds clear of Andy Schleck.
Provisional stage result:
1.Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia)
2.Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre)
3.Julian Dean (Garmin-Transitions)
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 89:16:27
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:39
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:02:01
4 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:03:40
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:06:54
Meanwhile, Andy Schleck takes the white jersey, Anthony Charteau confirms his King of the Mountains title, while Alessandro Petacchi wins the green jersey.
Thanks for following our live coverage today and throughout the Tour this year.
The full report, results and pictures from today's stage will be online soon and there will be news and analysis of today's stage and the whole Tour to follow.