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PARIS, France (CT) – Echoing the four stage wins picked up by compatriot Marcel Kittel in 2013 and 2014, Andre Greipel proved he was the dominant sprinter of this year’s Tour de France when he blasted home to take his fourth victory in this year’s race.
Greipel hit the line first in Paris, beating a fast-finishing Bryan Coquard (Europcar). Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) led into the final 200 metres but was overhauled by both and had to be satisfied with third.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka), Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Mark Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step) were third through to sixth, while the next riders home were green jersey Peter Sagan (Tinkoff – Saxo), John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge).
“I was not in the best position at the final bend. I was a bit far back, but I had the legs to finish it off,” said Greipel.
“I am looking forward to some rest now. This Tour de France had been amazing for us. There have been five bunch sprints and we won four of them.”
He was clear on which was the most important of those and, more so, of his period as a pro to date.
“I would say this is the biggest success of my career. It [Paris] is the sprinter’s capital. I am really happy I can win in the 2015 on the Champs Elysees. Nobody can take this away from my palmares now.”
Chris Froome dropped off the back with his Sky team-mates and rolled across the line, celebrating his second Tour victory. Because of slippery conditions on the cobbles of the Champs Elysees and the other roads on the circuit, the general classification contest had been neutralised after the first passage over the line.
Because of that, Froome knew that all he needed to do was to finish the stage in order to win. He ended the race one minute 12 seconds up on Nairo Quintana and five minutes 25 ahead of Alejandro Valverde (both Movistar).
The defending champion Vincenzo Nibali took fourth ahead of the 2007 and 2009 champion Alberto Contador, with both of those not quite at their best.
How it played out:
The final stage of the 2015 Tour de France began in Ville d’Avray, the location of the finish of the very first Tour. As was the case in other years, the final race was expected to be largely processional, although the stage win would be very much disputed by the sprinters and breakaway riders.
The race began at 4.15 pm due to the holding of the second edition of La Course, won by Anna Van Der Breggen (Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling team). It ran 109.5 kilometres to the Champs Elysees in Paris, with the final sprint coming after ten laps of the circuit there.
Because of the same wet conditions which caused a spate of attacks in the women’s race, the decision was taken to take the finishing times at the first crossing of the Champs Elysees. However it was crucial for riders to complete the event to hold onto those positions, thus requiring caution.
Early on, Andriy Grivko (Astana) took the day’s intermediate sprint ahead of Merhawi Kudus (MTN-Qhubeka). That was followed by an attack by Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) with 51 kilometres to go. He remained out front for seven kilometres but was then recaptured.
It was inevitable that further attacks would follow and next to open daylight ahead of the bunch was the trio of Florian Vachon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida) and Kenneth van Bilsen (Cofidis).
These worked hard to open a 30 second lead but Greipel’s Lotto-Soudal squad was hungry to help him to his fourth win and they hit the front. They kept the gap under control, enabling stage one winner Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Team) to jump across.
Soon afterwards race leader Chris Froome had a nervous moment when a bag snared in his bike and he was forced to stop and change his machine.
His Sky team waited for him and he was able to rejoin without using up too much energy.
Then, with eight kilometres remaining, Van Bilsen attacked and drew clear. He raced onto the final lap as French jets flew overhead, billowing out red, white and blue smoke to mark the colours of the flag.
Andre Greipel’s Lotto-Soudal team moved back to the front, desperate to close things down.
Out front, Dennis caught Van Bilsen but despite their riding together, the peloton continued to draw closer. It caught the duo with five kilometres to go, then the Orica GreenEdge team pushed forward.
They were trying to set up Michael Matthews, who has been recovering from the effects of a big crash earlier in the race.
The battle of the teams continued into the final two kilometres, with Trek Factory Racing, the BMC Racing Team and Giant-Alpecin all prominent.
However Lotto-Soudal weren’t about to let their hard work be for nothing and they led into the final kilometre. Katusha swept through for Alexander Kristoff, putting him in the front on the finishing straight, but Greipel was too strong and blasted past, then held off Coquard for the win.
Froome rolled across the line some time later, using the opportunity to celebrate his success with the rest of the Sky team.
Tour de France (2.UWT) Sèvres → Paris