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2019 Tour de France: Stage 21 preview

Stage 21: Rambouillet – Paris Champs-Élysées
Date: July 28, 2019
Distance: 128 km
Stage type: Flat

Finally, the climbs are almost over and the Eiffel Tower and Paris' other celebrated landmarks will soon be visible on the skyline. The Tour's final stage has long been a victory parade, with the yellow jersey and his teammates toasting each other with champagne and then leading the race onto the Champs-Élysées for several laps of fast and furious racing, concluding with arguably the most prestigious bunch sprint of the season and well-deserved laps of honour.

Yet it hasn't always unfolded like this. Four decades ago, Bernard Hinault and Joop Zoetemelk produced an unforgettable duel that began in the Chevreuse hills west of Paris and continued right to the line, where the pair finished more than two minutes ahead of the remnants of the bunch. Although shorter than that 1979 stage, the final approach to the French capital does present the opportunity for a repeat in as much as it passes through the Chevreuse, crossing two fourth-category climbs before heading into Paris for eight laps on the Champs-Élysées circuit.

A more likely scenario will see the King of the Mountains, who at the end of this high-altitude race might be decked out in the yellow jersey rather than the crowd-pleasing red polka dots, crest those final two hills ahead of the bunch. There is, of course, little chance of the remaining sprinters allowing him more leeway than that, having battled their way through the Alps, their last likely encounter in Nîmes by now almost a distant memory.

Bearing all of that mountainous terrain in mind, this bunch finale could be contested by a very select members of the sprinting fraternity. Alexander Kristoff won last year's stage on the famous avenue, and one of the most resilient of sprinters it would be little surprise to see the Norwegian in contention for a repeat. Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen, the winner here in 2017, is another to watch for.

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