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TOUR REPORT STAGE 21

Départ: Mantes-la-Jolie > Arrivée: Champs Elysees

And just like that, it’s over for another year. A whirr of wheels, the rattle of expensive carbon on the cobble stones of the Champs-Elysées, and a final trip to the podium for a very select number of the peloton.

Marc Hirschi was awarded the supercombative prize, while Movistar collected their now-customary award for winning the team classification. Sam Bennett claimed the green jersey, after winning the last sprint finish of the race and underscoring his immense talent once again.

Tadej Pogacar, of course, went up three times to collect the white, polka dot and – finally – the yellow jersey, the youngest winner since 1904.

Over all the race has loomed the shadow of coronavirus. To see the Champs-Elysées almost empty as the peloton made its eight breakneck passages of the criterium course, was a stark and chilling reminder of the backdrop against which this year’s event was run.

Still, the race did reach Paris, which many thought it would not. It proved that a race bubble can work in limiting transmissions, and should provide a decent exemplar as the professionals head for the Worlds this weekend and then the Giro.

The stage itself was the usual procession until it came roaring to life in the centre of Paris. The riders let rip on the Champs-Elysées, with a hail of attacks being launched before an eventual breakaway of four got a tiny sliver of a gap.

They lasted heroically to the final lap, before being swallowed up again by the bunch. Bennett was far too good for everyone else, perhaps the adrenaline of bringing green onto the Champs-Elysées giving him an extra 10%. In the end he won by a bike length.

Sonny Colbrelli of Bahrain-McLaren managed 11th in the bunch gallop, while team leader Mikel Landa and his vital lieutenant Damiano Caruso both rolled home safely, to secure their fourth and tenth places overall.

It has been an intriguing performance at this year’s Tour from Rod Ellingworth’s men; they have put in place the first foundations of a really competitive general classification system, built in the same mould as Team Ineos or Jumbo-Visma’s. Indeed, in the mountains they were the team that put its hand up to offer a challenge to the might of the ‘killer bees’. It has been a race of which they can be proud. We at Le Col certainly are.

Thanks to Russ Ellis and Chris Auld for capturing the race. See more of their work on Instagram @cyclingimages & @cauldphoto.