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Being under huge pressure, Greipel saved his Tour de France by making it two in a row on the Champs-Elysees, holding off Sagan and Kristoff; Froome won the race for the third time, with Bardet and Quintana completing the top 3

Photo: ANSA - PERI / DI MEO / ZENNARO

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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CHRIS FROOME

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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NAIRO QUINTANA

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PETER SAGAN

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ROMAIN BARDET

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TEAM SKY

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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24.07.2016 @ 20:22 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) kept his grand tour streak alive and saved his 2016 Tour de France on the last possible occasion by taking his second consecutive victory on the Champs-Elysees. After a great lead-out from Lotto Soudal, he came around Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and held off a fast-finishing Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) to take his first victory in this year’s race. Chris Froome and the rest of the Sky team finished safely far behind the peloton to confirm the third overall victory for the Brit while Romain Bardet (Ag2r) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) defended their podium places.

 

Ever since he won a stage at the 2008 Giro d’Italia, André Greipel has won a stage in every grand tour he has contested. However, the streak seemed to come to an end at this year’s Tour de France which has been a frustrating experience for the fast German.

 

Greipel was beaten by centimetres in stage 3 and since then he has not even been close. Hence, he found himself under huge pressure in today’s final stage to Paris where he lined up as the defending champion.

 

Greipel again proved that he can handle the stress as he finally managed to do things right, claiming his second consecutive victory on the Champs-Elysees and those emulating what his compatriot Marcel Kittel did in 2013 and 2014. His Lotto Soudal team controlled the finale and even though they hit the front a bit too early, Greipel stayed calm, moved back onto Alexander Kristoff’s wheel and then held off a fast-finishing Sagan to take the win.

 

The stage was marred by numerous punctures for the top sprinters. First it was Marcel Kittel who punctured with around 30km to go and at one point was a minute behind the fast-moving peloton. He managed to make it back but as nowhere to be seen in the final sprint. Inside the final 8km, sprinters Sondre Holst Enger (IAM), Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) had similar bad luck and so it was a depleted group of sprinters that battled it out for the win.

 

As usual, all the action happened in the final 8 laps of the famous circuit in Paris. After the traditional ceremonial part, things got serious with 70km to go where Sky took control. Luke Rowe, Vasil Kiryienka, Ian Stannard, Mikel Landa, Geraint Thomas, Wout Poels, Mikel Nieve and Sergio Henao traded pulls on the front and gradually increased the pace while Ag2r, Movistar and the sprint teams gathered further back. André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) suffered a puncture but soon returned to the group.

 

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was allowed to say goodbye to the Tour in the most beautiful way as he attacked and built a 15-second advantage before he crossed the line with an arm in the air. He soon fell back to the peloton where Sky continued to ride on the front until the attacking start with a little more than 50km to go.

 

Arthur Vichot (FDJ) launched the first attack but it was a group with his teammate Jeremy Roy, Marcus Brughardt (BMC), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r), Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data), Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) , Lawson Craddock (Cannondale) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) who got clear. They soon got an advantage of 10 seconds before the sprint teams hit the front with Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Romain Sicard, Fabrice Jeandesboz (Direct Energie) and Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep).

 

Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18) bridged across and the group had a gap of 20 seconds at the end of the first lap. Surprisingly, Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) abandoned, the German suffering from knee problems.

 

Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) also started to chase and the hard work from the five domestiques meant that the gap was only 18 seconds at the end of the second lap. Moments later, Burghardt won the final intermediate sprint ahead of Barta and Teklehaimanot but there was no fight for the points.

 

Marcel Kittel had already lost Martin when disaster struck again. The German suffered a puncture and after a very slow wheel change and another bike change, he found himself on his own one minute behind the peloton. He positioned himself right behind his car which dragged him back to the peloton.

 

At the end of the third lap, the gap was still 20 seconds but the group soon lost saw important manpower when Burghardt was dropped. He was brought back with 28km to go where Kittel was finally back in the caravan but the German still hadn’t regained contact.

 

Kittel finally made the junction with 27.5km to go, just before the front group ended the fourth lap with and advantage of 13 seconds. Vakoc had been skipping turns while Kittel chased but then started to work again.

 

At the end of the fifth lap, only Voeckler and Vakoc were working on the front but they had reduced the gap to 7 seconds. That inspired the Sky pair of Wout Poels and Luke Rowe to attack and they quickly bridged the gap while Craddock fell back to the peloton. Meanwhile, the bad luck continued for Etixx-QuickStep as Dan Martin punctured but the Irishman managed to get back.

 

Sylvain Chavanel took over from his teammate Voeckler but he couldn’t prevent the gap from going out to more than 10 seconds. Nonetheless, Teklehaimanot decided to destroy the cooperation in the front group by launching a solo attack and he was quickly joined by Gougeard and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) who attacked from the peloton and passed the chase group.

 

Lutsenko took off on his own as he started the penultimate lap while Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data) tried to attack. However, the only effect was to bring most of the attackers back and only Lutsenko was left in front with 12km to go.

 

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) bridged the gap to Lutsenko and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale) tried to do the same, without success. The front dup got a 10-second advantage before Voeckle again started to chase hard.

 

Daryl Impey (Orica-Bike Exchange) and Chavanel also started to chase as they entered the final 10km. With 8km to go, IAM hit the front with Reto Hollenstein and they gathered six riders on the front as they approached the penultimate passage of the line.

 

Hollenstein rode strongly and brought Lutsenko back as they started the final lap. However, disaster struck for Swiss team as Sondre Holst Enger punctured while riding in sixth position.

 

Despite losing their captain, Hollenstein maintained the pace as the team turned the attention to Leigh Howard and they brought Van Avermaet back before Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) launched a failed attack. He kept riding on the front until Maciej Bodnar took over for Tinkoff.

 

With 5km to go, Impey came to the fore again while a crash for Hollenstein further back split the peloton. The front end of the group didn’t slow down as it became a big battle between Cannondale, Trek, Cofidis and Orica-Bike Exchange and it was Gregory Rast who came out on top for Trek.

 

Kristijan Koren hit the front for Cannondale while the number of sprinters to puncture out of contention increased. Groenewegen and Coquard were both hit by bad luck but Christophe Laporte was still there and he put his teammate Cyril Lemoine on the front with 2km to go.

 

With 1800m to go, Lotto Soudal launched their train with Greg Henderson, Adam Hansen, Tony Gallopin, Marcel Sieberg and André Greipel. The Kiwi set the pace as they exited the tunnel and then Hansen took over.

 

Kittel had now disappeared completely as Lotto Soudal remained in control, with Gallopin leading under the flamme rouge. Then Sieberg took over but he had lost Greipel who was now further back behind the Katusha pair of Jacopo Guarnieri and Alexander Kristoff.

 

A Cannondale rider took a short turn but Guarnieri, Kristoff, Greipel and Peter Sagan were the first riders through the final turn. The Italian gave Kristoff the perfect lead-out and the Norwegian could start his sprint from the perfect position. However, Greipel easily came around and then held off a fast-finishing Sagan to make it two in a row in Paris, with Kristoff having to settle for third.

 

Chris Froome and the rest of the Sky team rolled across the line 1.13 later after having sat up to celebrate the win. Hence, Froome lost a bit of his advantage but he still won the race 2.52 ahead of Romain Bardet, with Nairo Quintana 16 seconds further back in third.

 

Sagan had to settle for second but he could still step onto the podium to celebrate his fifth points jersey and the prize as the most combative rider. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) was the best climber and Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) the best young rider. Movistar won the teams classification for the second year in a row.

 

With the Tour de France done and dusted, there is only a short break in the WorldTour schedule. On Saturday, the action resumes on Saturday when the Clasica San Sebastian takes place. The next major race in France is held one day later where La Polynormande signals the resumption of the Coupe de France race series.

 

A traditional final stage

After yesterday’s big mountain stage, it was time for the traditional final stage which brought the riders over just 113km from Chantilly to the famous Champs-Elysees in Paris. The first 58.5km led the rider to the first passage of the finish line and included a single category 4 climb but that was only a ceremonial part. The race was only set to start on the 8 laps of the 6.85km finishing circuit on the famous avenue in the French capital where a big bunch sprint is expected.

 

It was a great sunny day in Paris when the riders gathered for the start and the usual parade and there was a relaxed and festive atmosphere when they rolled through the 15km neutral zone. The four jersey holders posed for the usual photos in the first part and then the three podium finishers gathered in front to congratulate each other for their achievements.

 

Froome brings beers to his teammates

Froome then took the opportunity to shake hands with Bernard Hinault who’ll retire from his position in ASO at the end of the race and then fell back to pose for photo with his teammates. Later he paid back his teammates for their favours by picking up beers at the team car and then distribute them to his loyal companions.

 

After Froome had enjoyed a glass of champagne with the team car, the official start was finally given and it was Bernhard Eisel (Dimension Data) who launched a small attack as soon as the flag was dropped. Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal) and Michael Valgren also launched a Danish offensive and then fell back to the group which was led by former teammates Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

 

Kreuziger wins the KOM sprint

The stage developed into a bit of a parade for the former Liquigas team as Nibali, Kreuziger, Peter Sagan, Maciej Bodnar, Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff), Kristijan Koren (Cannondale) and Damiano Caruso (BMC) who are all former members of the Italian team, spent the first 30km on the front, setting a slow pace. Kreuziger and Bodnar even briefly escaped on a descent but they quickly waited for the rest of the peloton.

 

The pace was still relaxed when the riders got to the final KOM sprint of the race where Kreuziger and Quintana had a fun sprint for the point, with the Czech coming out on top. The festive mood continued for another 10km before the Sky took control just as they entered the final 70km. From here things got serious and it was Froome and Greipel who emerged as the big winners.

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