From the high mountains to the verdant surrounds of Chantilly in the Oise regional park – welcome to the final stage of the Tour. Day 21 hasn’t started from the north of the city since 1984, when most Tour riders weren’t even born. It’s also a lumpier preamble than usual. There’s even a cat 4 climb up the Côte de l’Ermitage after 32km, which would be entertaining if that jersey is still somehow in play at this late stage. But with the GC all but written in stone, the hill is only likely to make the rolling champagne toast a tad more difficult for the riders than usual. The race enters Paris beneath the setting sun – a tradition in its fourth year now, popular with the marketing department, less so with photographers, journalists filing late copy or with fans trying to make the last train home. With 45km to go, there are, as usual, eight circuits of the most beautiful cityscape in the world before the most telegenic sprint in the world.
The yellow jersey’s team will lead the peloton on to the Place de la Concorde for the first lap and will then hand the reins to the sprinters’ outfits. It’s a quirk of the Tour that a victory for the sprinters here on the least selective day is probably worth two stages in the provinces so no matter what reserves the flurry of attackers have left and which they pour out on the smooth gutter beside the city setts, they will not be given much leeway - 30 seconds, perhaps. The drag up the Champs to the Arc de Triomphe is harder than one would think but the real key is the right hand curve off the Place de la Concorde. Where every sprinter wants to be is second or third wheel, preferably behind a team-mate. No matter about the previous 3,519km, these last 200m of the Tour mean the world to them.
Robbie McEwen: To win here, you’ve got to get yourself into position as you hit the kink on the Place de la Concorde. Under the 1km banner, past the ferris wheel, and make your move. If you’re not in the first four or five guys round the last right-hander, forget it. That last corner takes a lot of riders out of contention if they get trapped on the right, on the inside. It would be good if the green jersey was still up for grabs today - we’ve not seen that for a few years.