Start location: Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines
Finish location: Paris
Start time: 16:30 CEST
Finish time (approx): 19:28 CES
You all know the drill by now. The race sets off amid a party atmosphere with jokes shared and glasses of champagne clinked, before arriving into Paris for several laps of intense racing around the Champs-Élysées for the most hard-fought bunch sprint of the year. Yet this is set to be the last in an unbroken streak of Champs-Élysées finishes at the Tour de France stretching all the way back to 1975, as a clash with the Parisian Olympics next year will see the final stage take place in Nice instead.
Talking of the Olympics, the town selected to host the start of this year’s finale, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, will play a big role next summer as the location of the track cycling events. Opened in 2014, the Velodrome de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines hosted the world track championships in 2015 and 2022, and will bring back fond memories for Stefan Küng, Bryan Coquard, both of whom won gold medals in the former year.
Stage 21 profile sourced via ASO
Provided nobody manages to successfully break out of the peloton and make it to the finish for the first time since Alexander Vinokourov’s triumph in 2005, the Champs-Élysées will, as ever, witness another mass bunch sprint at the finish. It’s so hard to get away on these long, wide roads that any attackers are virtually doomed from the outset, not that that stops a handful of optimists chancing their arm each year despite having the odds stacked against them.
It says a lot about how much more open bunch sprints are these days that each of the last six most recent Paris stages has seen a different winner, compared with how each of the stars of the previous generation, André Greipel, Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish, each won multiple victories here in succession. In the closely-fought bunch sprints of recent years, victories here for Jasper Philipsen last year, Sam Bennett in 2020 and Caleb Ewan in 2019 was what confirmed them as the most successful sprinter of those Tours, while also landing the stage every sprinter wants above all the others. With the sprints being so competitive now and such fine margins separating the top names, this stage can make or break their Tour.
Another thing to bear in mind with this year’s finale compared to usual is how the Glasgow World Championships have been moved forward to just a couple of weeks after. Usually this stage marks the beginning of a long, well-earned rest, but anyone hoping to spend next year in the rainbow stripes will have to go easy on the champagne this time around.
Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) has been the most dominant sprinter this Tour. However, he hasn't had a win since stage 11, and despite some stages looking on paper to be a chance for the fast men, he was knocked off the podium twice by two successful breakaways. However, this is Paris, and it'll no doubt unfold in a bunch sprint, where Philipsen will certainly be in the mix with the fast men.
Another rider who has secured a stage win is Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek), who will be hot on Philipsen's wheel. He's beaten the Dutch rider once in this Tour and has been crossing the line at the same time as Philipsen in the last sprint opportunities.
Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco Alula), Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe), Bryan Coquard (Cofidis), Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), and Sam Welsford (Team DSM-Firmenich) are all sprinters who have made it through the brutal mountain stages of this year's Tour, but are yet to secure themselves a stage win. They'll all be hoping to win this iconic stage on the Champs-Élysées.
He finished off his Tour de France last year in style, and with him showcasing his phenomenal sprinting prowess this Grand Tour, we expect Jasper Philipsen to repeat history, taking the final stage win. This will make it five in total for the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider.