Stage 21: Chatou - Paris Champs-Élysées
Date: July 18, 2021
Stage timing: 16:15 - 19:00 CEDT
Stage type: Flat
Stage 21 preview video
The Tour concludes with its by now traditional final stage that starts as a procession and ends with a flurry of helter-skelter action culminating in what’s often regarded as the unofficial bunch sprinting world championship on the Champs-Élysées. This edition’s final fling begins in Chatou in the department of Yvelines, which is hosting the start of this stage for the fourth year in a row.
Heading east to begin with, away from the French capital, the riders will strike the traditional celebratory poses for TV and the press photographers, the jersey winners and the best team toasting each other with champagne.
The course turns southwards at Poissy, crossing the only climb of the day, the fourth-category Côte des Grès, and begins to loop to the west. It passes through Saint-Cyr-l’École, which hosted the start of this year’s Paris-Nice, the magnificent chateau at Versailles, the peloton’s speed picking up on the approach to the capital.
The riders enter the finishing circuit based on Place de la Concorde, the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe with 56km remaining and begin the first of eight laps, the yellow jersey’s team usually leading through the finish line on the first passage. This is the cue for an hour or so of frantic action in front of some of the most iconic monuments in France and indeed anywhere in the world, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre and its distinctive glass pyramid.
There are sure to be concerted efforts by breakaway groups to escape the shackles of the peloton in the hopes of stealing away to contest one of the most prestigious of stage victories. But the sprinters’ teams have shown year after year that they’re ready to nullify any possibility of there being a surprise winner.
Some alterations to the road layout just before the final straight have encouraged the organisers to move the finish line 150 metres further up the Champs-Élysées. This little tweak apart, the finale should be the same as ever, with a ferocious sprint at the front of the peloton while, at the back, the yellow jersey almost freewheels to the line, arms aloft, victory finally secured.
Audrey Cordon Ragot's view
The finale is always a sort of criterium-style and that’s exciting for the public to be on the Champs-Élysées really close to the race. It’s always a bunch sprint. In the women’s 2015 La Course we were able to see Anna van der Breggen win alone but in the men’s stage 21 it has always been a bunch sprint.
I have good memories from last year seeing Sam Bennett win while also wearing the green jersey, and that was fantastic, so why not another green-jersey winner on the Champs-Élysées.
The day is also the famous celebration of the overall winner, a sort of parade into Paris, as the champion of the Tour de France. I am hoping that one-day, I can do that with my team, drinking champagne along the Champs-Élysées as the winner of the women’s Tour de France.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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