The final stage of the Tour de France is traditionally a cruisey day out before things heat up on the Champs Elysees. This year was no different. Chris Froome was snapped sipping champagne with Team Sky staff, Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez lit up a cigar to celebrate his podium position and everyone seemed to have a good time … until the race hit the Champs Elysees for 10 laps in the fading light of a stunning Paris evening.

As usual, a few ambitious riders tried to get away (including Cadel Evans) with David Millar and Juan Antonio Flecha putting in the most impressive efforts. But it was always going to come down to a bunch sprint.

Kittel hit the front a couple hundred metres before the finish, Greipel and Cavendish locked on his wheel. Greipel and Cavendish did their best to catapult out of Kittel’s slipstream to take the win but the Argos-Shimano sprinter proved far too strong, taking his fourth win for the Tour.

Chris Froome got distanced a little in the hustle and bustle of the final lap but still won the Tour with a lead of more than 4 minutes.

It seems like a year ago since we arrived in Corsica and saw the Orica-GreenEDGE bus get wedged under the finish line gantry. Since then, it’s been one entertaining stage after another. In some ways this highlights just how featureless last year’s tour was, not that we blame Wiggins for that. The parcours wasn’t selective enough and didn’t lend itself to the same levels of excitement we saw this year.

Highlights

There have been some moments in the past three weeks that will stick with us whenever we remember this year’s Tour de France and that have made this year’s race one of the best in recent memory.

  • Jan Bakelandts. We never really paid much attention to him before his gutsy first professional win on stage two. Thereafter he came into his own and animated the race on many occasions.
  • Simon Gerrans’ win on stage 3. His victory over Peter Sagan into Calvi put him in a position to take yellow the following day. It was Orica-GreenEDGE’s first stage win at the Tour and after their second stage win in the TTT the next day (another highlight), they held the yellow jersey for 4 days until stage 8. Outstanding.
  • Alberto Contador. He’s not the same rider he used to be, but on virtually every stage — flat, uphill or downhill — he was there having a crack. He animated the race like few others and despite his lack of form, raced off emotion and instinct instead of a power meter.
  • Richie Porte. Without him, Froome would have been isolated many times and could very well have missed out on winning the Tour.
  • Nairo Quintana. A rags to riches story that shows why this sport is so special. He relentlessly attacked Froome on seemingly every mountain stage, which made certain it was going to be an exciting race all the way to Paris.
  • Team Movistar. Without them, the race wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting as it was. Valverde and Costa rode two very different races under the same team and both made it an incredible race for us to watch. And as mentioned, Quintana was electric and picked up a swag of accolades for his efforts.
  • Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam. Both of the Belkin riders had a brilliant race and their fight for GC spots animated the race, particularly in the first two weeks.
  • Chris Froome. There was absolutely no need for Froome to attack again after winning stage 8, but he did. And not just once. Seeing the yellow-jersey-wearer animating the race on the climbs was a welcome change from last year (and many previous years) and it always kept the race interesting.
  • Dutch corner on Alpe d’Huez. It gets crazier every year.
  • The sprinters. We can’t remember the last time we saw such an even match-up between the touted sprinters (minus Matt Goss). Even though the green jersey battle was a cakewalk for Sagan, seeing Cavendish, Greipel, Kittel and, to a lesser extend Sagan go head to head on the flat stages was always a buzz. And as we saw on several stages, Marcel Kittel is the “real deal”.
  • Stage 13. This was the stage highlight of the Tour in our opinion. Omega Pharma-QuickStep blew the race apart in the crosswinds, and Saxo Tinkoff finished off the job in a brilliant tactical move which took time away from Froome.

For those of you who watched the Tour through cynical eyes, you missed a fantastic race. We’ve all been let down before, but we still believe in this sport and we’re confident it’s in a better place than it was five years ago. Froome’s domination was undeniable, but there’s not a shred of evidence to suggest that he won this race through anything other than working harder, smarter and having better support than everyone else.

We’d like to echo David Walsh’s sentiments when he said:


For us, this Tour has been a bit of a working holiday. We got to be at all the the key stages, ride some of the best roads in the area (including three of the four mountain-top finishes), soaked up the atmosphere, and made some new friends along the way thanks to Bikestyle Tours.

They say that you either do the Tour de France once, or you do it for a great number of years. For me (Wade), my fourth Tour has come to an end and I can say with certainty that I’ll be back again next year.

We’ve enjoyed bringing you daily photos and reports from every stage, the odd interview and feature article, and journaling our rides.

Thank you for reading and leaving your comments here, on Facebook, on Twitter and on Instagram. Without that interaction this Tour wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying for us as it has been.

As ever, be sure to check out our photos from today’s stage before you leave. And if you’d like revisit any of our daily reports from the 2013 Tour de France, follow the links below:

 


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