Tour de France 2022, stage 21
Start location: Paris La Défense Arena
Finish location: Paris Champs-Élysées
Start time: 15.30 BST
Finish time (approx): 18.26 BST
Audrey Hepburn once observed, “Paris is always a good idea.” The peloton of the 2022 Tour de France, fatigued and shellshocked by one of the hottest and toughest races there has ever been, may well agree, though the perennial debate about the sporting merits of the Grande Boucle’s final stage will always divide fans.
In the return to the capital, towards the end of July, the Tour mirrors the annual exodus by citizens of Paris in what is known as the ‘Grand Départ’. In his book The Discovery of France, the author Graham Robb describes the tradition, which goes back well over a hundred years to the 19th century. “The ‘Grand Départ’, the mass summer exodus of entomological proportions that creates hundred-mile traffic jams on roads from Paris, has a long history,” he wrote. “According to one estimate in the mid-1850s, thirty thousand Parisians left the city every summer.” That leaves space for a similar number of cycling fans to line the famous Champs-Élysées circuit for the final stage of the Tour, three weeks after the race’s own Grand Départ.
Tour de France 2022 Stage map and Profile
For 2022, the final stage starts just down the road from the finish. From the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées at Place de la Concorde, you can see in a straight line all the way to the Arc de Triomphe two kilometres away, and through the great monument to La Grande Arche de La Défense, a further four and a half kilometres west. This connection between the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and Avenue de la Grande Armée is known as the Axe Historique, though the riders of the Tour will be taking an altogether more circuitous route from La Défense to the Champs, heading all the way out beyond the city limits to Yvelines and then back via Versailles.
But it is on the finishing circuit that the race traditionally comes alive. The race crosses the Seine on the Pont Neuf, then heads to Rue de Rivoli to ride alongside the Tuileries gardens and past the Louvre museum. The riders will climb the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, then descend back to the Place de la Concorde, then loop around the Tuileries back to the Rue de Rivoli. The finish line is on the Champs-Élysées, about a third of the way up. The likelihood is for a bunch sprint, though it would be a fitting end to an unpredictable and anarchic Tour for there to be one last twist in the tale.
Tour de France 2022 Stage 21 Contenders and prediction
Although this has been a Tour de France full of surprises, we think that the final stage on the Champs-Élysées should come down to a bunch sprint, as is tradition in the race. This means that the pure sprinters will get their shot at going mano a mano for the fourth time in this Tour de France which hasn't offered many opportunities for the fast men.
There are three pure sprinters who have won stages in the race so far in 2022, the first of whom is Fabio Jakobsen of Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl. The Dutchman took an emphatic victory in Nyborg on stage two, delivered to the line perfectly by his teammates. Since then, however, Jakobsen has struggled through the mountains and has admitted he is carrying fatigue. He's also lost key lead out man Michael Mørkøv who retired due to illness earlier in the race.
This means Jakobsen could be seriously challenged by Dylan Groenewegen of Team BikeExchange. Gronenewegen proved he is back to his best on stage three of this year's Tour de France beating his rivals in a bunch sprint to Sønderborg.
The third pure sprinter who has already won a stage in this year's Tour is Jasper Philipsen of Alpecin-Deceuninck. The 24-year-old won in a hectic and scrappy sprint to Carcassonne on stage 16 which was lumpier than the sprint stages in Denmark earlier in the race. Philipsen has had an easier time in the mountains than some of his competitors, which could mean he is the freshest of them all going in to the Champs-Élysées. His second place in Cahors on stage 19 will surely make him even hungrier for more, too.
Caleb Ewan of Lotto-Soudal could save his poor season with a victory today, but the Australian hasn't looked at his best so far this race. It will be interesting to see if he can come good with three weeks of hard miles in his legs. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) might be another contender here but he is less suited to the fastest, flat sprints.
One man who could spoil the fun of all the pure sprinters is Jumbo-Visma's Wout van Aert. The Belgian can do pretty much anything and stole the win on the Champs-Élysées in last year's Tour. He looks to be in even better form this year so a victory for Van Aert is not out of the question today.
Alberto Dainese (Team DSM), Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies), Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux), Danny van Poppel (BORA-Hansgrohe) and Hugo Hofstetter (Team Arkéa Samsic) are all outside bets for the win today.