Tour de France – The end of the journey!
From Dusseldorf to the French capital — via the Vosges, Jura, Pyrenees, Massif Central and Alps — the Tour de France caravan finally rolled onto the most famous avenue in the world, the Champs Elysees, yesterday. The final stage of the Tour takes over central Paris, showcasing the Elysees, the Seine, the Arc de Triomphe and of course the grandeur of the Place de la Concorde. It is one of the most spectacular days in the sporting calendar.
Yesterday’s final stage had even greater significance for the French capital and for its candidacy for the 2024 Olympic Games, which is now gathering momentum. In addition to the usual spectacle of the city of lights at its most luminous, there were fly pasts and even a detour into the splendour of the Grand Palais, overlooking the Pont des Invalides, a probable venue for Olympic sports should the 2024 bid succeed.
As the 3,500 kilometres of racing ended, it was Chris Froome who finally claimed his fourth Tour de France win. But as ever, what really lingers in the mind’s eye, is the immensity of the Tour, its place in French culture and the scale of the logistical and organisational achievement. There will be some bleary eyes and heavy hearts in the hotel rooms of central Paris this morning, as five thousand souls — riders, team staff, media, and officials — get to grips with the comedown of returning the real world. They will miss the excitement of their three-week road trip, from the vineyards to the Mediterranean, the ski stations to the city squares. This morning there are no crowds lining the mountain roads in their thousands, or three generations of families camping out, cheering, partying, ready to welcome the Tour.
Villages that welcomed the Tour’s passage through their region, will start to take down the bunting, remove the yellow jerseys from shop windows, dismantle the hay bale sculptures so familiar from helicopter footage. They will bide their time, waiting for the announcement of next year’s route which comes in October, fervently hoping it will be soon be their turn once again.
Words: Jeremy Whittle
Photography: Pete Goding