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Sprint Finish: everything you need to know about the final stage of Le Tour

Mark Cavendish won Stage 21, as Evans triumphed overall.

Cadel Evans celebrates his victory.
Cadel Evans celebrates his victory.

Result: Mark Cavendish won the final stage on the Champs Elysées for the third year in a row. Cadel Evans finished in the bunch unscathed to become the first Australian to win the Tour de France.

Here’s how it happened: There were the usual jovial scenes at the beginning of the final stage of the Tour. The racing began very slowly as Cadel Evans and his team-mates posed for photographs at the front of the peloton while drinking champagne.

But there was still a stage to be won and the green jersey up for grabs. Cavendish started the stage 15 points ahead of Jose Joaquin Rojas and with 20 points available for the winner of the intermediate sprint with 36km to go and a further 45 available at the finish line, the competition was far from over.

It was a shorter than usual final stage at just 95km, but it didn’t stop a breakaway going clear in an effort to scupper the chances of the sprinters. A six man break got a maximum gap over the bunch of 45 seconds at one stage.

They remained clear as the peloton passed the intermediate sprint where Cavendish was best of the rest behind the breakaway crossing in seventh place. Rojas could only manage ninth which meant coming into the final bunch sprint, Cavendish now held a 17 point lead over Rojas

The breakaway group was inevitably reeled in with just 2km to spare as the most prestigious bunch sprint in cycling ensued.

Once again, the HTC-HighRoad leadout train were untouchable as they set Mark Cavendish up perfectly for the win. Edvald Boasson-Hagen finished second and André Greipel crosse the line in third. Rojas got swamped completely in the final kilometre and could only manage 21st place which means that Cavendish also takes the green jersey.

It is the Manxman’s fifth stage win of this year’s Tour and his 20th in total.

Yellow Jersey: Cadel Evans wins the Tour de France. On paper it will read that he won the Tour in the final time trial. But it was his exemplary performance on Stage 18, which finished on the Col du Galibier, that truly laid the foundations for his victory.

Evans’s dogged and unaided pursuit of Andy Schleck that day kept the Luxembourger’s advantage over him to a minimum, which allowed him to remain within touching distance of the yellow jersey coming into yesterday’s test against the clock.

At 34 years old, Evans is the oldest Tour de France winner since World War II and is also the first winner from the southern hemisphere.

Green Jersey: Mark Cavendish finally got his hands on the green jersey after finishing as runner up for the past two years. Due to rule changes, which afforded a large amount of points for intermediate sprints, Cavendish was forced to change his tactic throughout the Tour.

Having previously ignored the intermediate sprints, this year he regularly sprinted twice a day in order to ensure this victory. He is the first British rider to ever win the green jersey.

Polka-Dot Jersey: There was also a major shakeup this year to how the king of the mountains classification was calculated. There was far more emphasis placed on summit finishes and less points available for mountain peaks earlier on during stages. This meant that unlike in previous years, the competition was not suited to breakaway merchants who aren’t actually amongst the best climbers in the race.

Although the top six riders in this classification were all very high G.C. finishers, unfortunately the jersey became a by-product of the G.C. contest rather than a separately contested competition in its own right.

The jersey was eventually won by Samuel Sanchez who finished sixth on G.C. Sanchez becomes the first Spaniard to win this prize for more than 35 years.

White Jersey: The best young rider’s jersey, awarded to the highest rider on G.C. aged 25 or under, was won by the Frenchman Pierre Rolland. A prize which has been won in the past by Rolland’s own team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau back in 1979.

Inevitably and unfortunately, this success will lead to enormous pressure heaped by the French public on to Rolland’s shoulders.

The Tour hasn’t been won by a Frenchman since Bernard Hinault in 1985. Rolland has already said that it is a career goal of his to win the Tour, but he won’t be helped by the massive media focus which he will now be forced to deal with.

And what about Roche?
Nicolas Roche, the only Irish rider in the race finished up in 26th place overall. Having targeted a top 10 before the race, this will be a disappointment for Roche. But by his own admission, injuries sustained earlier in the season just had too much ill-effect on his preparation and eventually took their toll.

Roche will now regroup and will be back to serious racing in the Vuelta a Espana, which starts at the end of August.

So was it the best Tour ever?
Well it was certainly jammed full of exciting stages. The only stage where there were no surprises or unexpected action was the sprint finish into Montpellier on Stage 15.

It was incredibly eventful from start to finish; Gilbert animating the opening hilly stage, the photo finish between Evans and Contador on Stage Four, the huge amount of high profile riders crashing, Andy Schleck’s solo adventure toward the Col du Galibier, Contador lighting up the race on the stage to Alpe d’Huez, to name but a few memorable moments.

Whether it was the best Tour ever is debatable but Seán Kelly himself said today that it’s certainly the best edition he had ever seen since he started commentating back in 1998 – and it’s hard to argue with that.

Read: Evans claims Tour de France crown>

About the author:

Cillian Kelly  / Twitter: @irishpeloton

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