The peloton sweeps round the Place de la Concorde, under the watchful eye of the golden Maid of Orleans – iconic astride her horse, and a symbol of Paris to match the golden angel who looks down on Berlin, or our own Angel of the North.
It’s been a strange day, low-key, very little racing, no champagne roll-out at the start and I suppose that befits the ending of a Tour that promised so much when Ken, in a slightly crumpled white linen suit, waved the boys off in Whitehall three weeks ago. One hundred and forty-one men are riding to the finish line, actually one more than made it to Paris last year, although it seems that this year has seen the abandonnment of more than usual. But that’s because this year, we’ve lost two whole teams. Astana – forced out after Vinokourov’s positive doping sample, and the Cofidis team’s voluntary withdrawal when Moreni tested positive.
Once racing really started – two laps into the Champs Elysee, it was a bit of a race on. Team Barloworld (let’s not forget they were a wild-card entry but already with two Stage wins and likely to take King of the Mountains), worked like bastards to catch the breakaway. All on their own, it wasn’t going to work, but then Discovery came to the party and brought the ten-man break back.
With rain threatening – an unwanted weather intervention to make the cobbles of the final laps into a skating rink – Quickstep got themselves organised to chase the pack down and line up their man, Tom Boonen for a final sprint. It didn’t work, Lampre’s Daniel Bennati took the win, from Big Thor Hushovd and the old boy Eric Zabel.
don’t know what to think about this Tour overall. I don’t know that I believe in the Maillot Jaune. Classic commentators, and old Tour pros, Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett seem sure that this has been a good Tour, that drug cheats are in the minority and catching the cheats is a good thing. David Millar – reformed character and outspoken in his views – reckons it’s been the cleanest Tour he’s ridden, maybe the cleanest ever. I guess we have to wait for the outcomes of the dope tests, look at the rest of the season, and see where we are come June/July next year. For me, I’ll follow the news, I am upset by what has happened this year, but I’ll watch Le Tour next summer and hope that by then we can believe in our heroes in lycra.