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For the second year in a row, Kittel won the final stage on the Champs-Elysees, beating Kristoff in a close and exciting battle; Nibali survived the stage to become a deserved overall winner

Photo: Sirotti

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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JEAN-CHRISTOPHE PÉRAUD

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MARCEL KITTEL

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RAMUNAS NAVARDAUSKAS

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TEAM SUNWEB

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THIBAUT PINOT

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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27.07.2014 @ 19:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) confirmed his status as the fastest rider in the world when he took his second consecutive victory on the Champs-Elysees. In a close battle against Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), he had the power to accelerate a final time to pass the Norwegian while Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) did a great sprint to take third. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) survived a potentially dangerous day to become the sixth rider in the cycling history to win all three grand tours.

 

Marcel Kittel may have played a minor role for the last few weeks, only waiting to strike on the Champs-Elysees and repeat his win in the sprint that matters the most for all sprinters. It was definitely worth suffering in the mountains as the German repeated last year’s win on the world’s most famous cycling avenue.

 

Like last year, however, it was a hard-fought victory for Kittel as he had to beat an extremely strong Alexander Kristoff to take the win. Despite having been given the perfect lead-out by his team, with Tom Veelers leading the peloton through the famous final turn, Kittel was suddenly passed by the Norwegian who seemed to be riding away with his third stage victory.

 

However, Kittel still had power to make an extra acceleration and he launched his move inside the final 100m to narrowly pass the Katusha sprinter. The winning margin was a small one, just as it was in 2013 when he beat André Greipel and Mark Cavendish.

 

Ramunas Navarduaskas did the sprint of his life, having been perfectly supported by his teammates, to take third while Greipel had to settle for fourth, clearly not having the power to match Kittel and Kristoff. For Peter Sagan (Cannondale), it was a bad day as he could only manage 9th.

 

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) didn’t take any risks and stayed in the rear end of the peloton for most of the stage and crossed the line safely to win the Tour de France for the first time. His winning margin over Jean-Christophe Peraud  (Ag2r) was 7.52 which is the biggest since 1997.

 

For Peraud, however, the stage was a big drama. The Frenchman went down on one of the first laps in Paris and the Ag2r team hit the panic button, sending almost the entire team back to their captain. Nibali moed ahead to ask the peloton to slow down and Peraud managed to rejoin the peloton, securing a historic second place.

 

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) had a more comfortable ride and become the second Frenchman on the podium as well as winning the white jersey for best young rider.

 

Sagan did a disappointing sprint on the final day but he took a commanding victory in the points classification, winning the green jersey for the third year in a row. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) crowned a great performance with two stage wins and a win in the mountains classification.

 

Ag2r-La Mondiale had a scare on the final day but completed a great collective performance that saw them win the teams classification as they did in the Giro earlier this year. Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) was selected as the most aggressive rider in the race.

 

With the Tour de France over, the focus of the WorldTour turns back to the one-day races with the first autumn classic Clasica San Sebastian which takes place on Saturday.

 

A ceremonial stage

As per tradition, the Tour de France came to an end with an almost completely flat stage to the centre of Paris. This year’s final route was 137.5km, started in Evry and included a small category 4 climb in the first part before the riders hit the 6.5km finishing circuit in the French capital. The race ended with 8 laps on the most famous cycling avenue, the Champs-Elysees.

 

As usual, the race got off to a very calm start when the 164 remaining riders rolled through the 10km neutral zone in beautiful sunny conditions. The four holders of the distinctive jersey took the time to pose for the photographers while several riders moved up to Nibali to congratulate him for his victory.

 

Lazy atmosphere

Nibali dropped back to his Astana team car to take a glass of champagne and celebrate the victory with his 8 teammates. He moved back to the front in time for the official start but as usual there was no racing going on in the first part of the race.

 

Ag2r moved ahead to pose for the photographers as the winners of the teams classification but Astana quickly hit the front to make sure that things didn’t get too lazy. For brief moment, they had to give room for the Italian riders who were lined up in a row on the front of the group.

 

Mechanical for Kittel

Astana went back to work and Dmitriy Gruzdev and Tanel Kangert even made a small sprint on the first climb, with the Kazakh taking the point. Michele Scarpoi and Jakob Fuglsang took a turn on the front before Andriy Grivko and Lieuwe Westra took over.

 

As they got closer to Paris, the pace was raised and it was clear that the sprinters started to get nervous. Kittel suffered a mechanical and seemed to be clearly frustrated as he was brought back to the peloton by Roy Curvers.

 

Chavanel launches the first attack

Astana led the peloton onto the finishing circuit and as soon as they had crossed the line, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) launched the first attack. The Frenchman immediately got a big gap and it took a little while before the counterattacks started.

 

Geraint Thomas, Jan Barta and Ben King were among the riders to try but it was Christian Meier who bridged the gap. Just as he made the junction, however, it was back together.

 

Voigt takes off

With 48km to go, Jens Voigt (Trek) launched an attack and he opened a solid gap. Chris Horner, Luis Mate, Thomas and Michael Albasini set off in pursuit but Lars Bak neutralized that move for Lotto.

 

Voigt won the final intermediate sprint while the attacking continued in the peloton. Paul Voss, Tony Gallopin, Rein Taaramae, Danny Pate, Michael Mørkøv and Michal Golas were all part of the action but it was Greg Van Avermaet and Svein Tuft who bridged the gap.

 

Drama for Peraud

With 43km to go, a big crash brought down the likes of Samuel Dumoulin, Martin Elmiger, Cheng Ji, Cyril Lemoine, Ben Gastauer and Peraud and this put Ag2r into panic mode. Christophe Riblon, Mikael Cherel, Matteo Montaguti and Blel Kadri dropped back to help Peraud rejoin the peloton but it was definitely not at easy task.

 

He was helped by Nibali and Chavanel who moved up and asked the peloton to slow down just as the front trio was brought back.

 

Porte bounces back

When Peraud was back, the attacking continued, with Jan Bakelants launching the first move. However, it was Mørkøv, Richie Porte (Sky), Jose Serpa (Lampre) and Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne) who created a gap and with 35km to go, they were 15 seconds ahead.

 

Tom Dumoulin (Giant), Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Lars Bak (Lotto) started to chase and keep the gap around 20 seconds. Meanwhile, Kristoff suffered a puncture and had to work hard to get back to the front.

 

Sprint teams take control

Fonseca was dropped from the break while Luke Durbridge and Tuft launched an Orica attack. They were closely marked by Marcel Sieberg (Lotto) and Dumoulin though and so they didn’t get clear.

 

Dumoulin, Bak and Van Den Broeck went back to work and they didn’t react when Meier made a small attack that didn’t last for long. Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) started to chase as well and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) also joined the action.

 

Porte takes off

With 14km to go, the gap was down to just 10 seconds and this was the signal for Porte to attack. The Australian continued on his own while Serpa and Mørhøv were brought back.

 

Lotto, Europcar, Katusha, Cannondale and Giant continued to chase hard and just before they started the final lap, Porte was back in the fold. Tuft tried again but had no luck.

 

Giant in control

The lead-out trains were now well-organized and it was Lotto that took control with Tony Gallopin and Adam Hansen. Simon Clark did a great attack and got a nice gap but with four kilometres to go, Giant-Shimano launched their lead-out.

 

Roy Curvers did a great job to bring Clarke back while OPQS tried to challenge Giant for supremacy. Albert Timmer won the battle for the Dutch team but with 1.5km to go, Niki Terpstra hit the front for OPQS with Tony Martin and Matteo Trentin on his wheel.

 

John Degenkolb passed them and from there, Giant remained in control. Koen De Kort took a turn before Veelers led the peloton through the final turn, setting Kittel up for the victory.

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