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94th Tour de France - ProT

France, July 7-29, 2007

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Stage 20 - Sunday, July 29: Marcoussis - Paris Champs-Élysées, 146km

Live commentary by Shane Stokes and Bjorn Haake

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 13:15 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:45 CEST

Bonjour pour la dernière fois from France, where La Grande Boucle concludes its 94th edition and Cyclingnews brings you the live action once again. Generally the last day that concludes on the Champs-Elysées is a stroll with champagne drinking and then a fast criterium style racing around the Champs with a lap of 6.5km to be completed 8 times and the sprinters taking all the glory. But today could be a little different. Australian Cadel Evans is down only 23 seconds and could make that gap up with time bonuses alone. While it is a long shot, it doesn't seem to be impossible. Jan Ullrich was down about a minute and a quarter in 2003 and vowed to fight until the line is crossed. And that the sprinters can be beaten was shown by Alexander Vinokourov in 2005, the last of the Lance years. Of course another American, Greg LeMond, made his late comeback in 1989 on the Champs, gaining 58 seconds in only 24km of racing, albeit in a time trial. Evans gained 1'27" yesterday in 55.5km. Had he achieved the LeMond rate he would be in yellow. Although if American Levi Leipheimer wouldn't have gotten a 10 second time penalty he would be ahead of Evans now. Lots of if's, and when's, so let's just enjoy the last day of action in France

13:47 CEST   
The riders are at the start line. Christophe Moreau is packing his arm warmers away. Too warm.

13:48 CEST    0.1km/145.9km to go
Off they go! The last day in the 2007 Tour has kicked off.

13:51 CEST   
The atmosphere at the start was relaxed, with the riders joking with each other. We will see if the threatened protest will materialize. There were rumours that some teams wanted to stop one metre from the line.

13:54 CEST   
Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is wearing the white jersey, even though he is third. But Contador is wearing yellow and Soler is wearing polka dot. Txurruka will be presented with the most combative rider award in Paris, though. This award is given by a jury at the end of three weeks. The most combative award itself is only given out on a daily basis, without a general classification. In the moment the jerseys are riding in the front, busy to keep the pace at a reasonable 20km/h

13:55 CEST   
Tom Boonen makes a sign with two fingers. Yes Tommeke. You won two stages. Soler is on the right, then Contador, Boonen and Txurruka is riding on the left.

13:56 CEST   
They have a 'gap' of about 50 metres. The peloton is lead by Lampre.

13:56 CEST   
Christophe Moreau also made the front group, with his French Champion jersey.

14:00 CEST   
There are two category four climbs (not so important now, as Soler can't be caught) and two bonus sprints (very important for the green and yellow jersey battles) today.

The first climb comes 51 kilometres after the start and is called the Côte de Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse. This is 2.5 kilometres long and has an average grade of 6%. The second is just 3.5 kilometres later and this, the Côte de Châteaufort, is 1.5 kilometres in length and also 6%.

The crucial sprints are at kilometre 74 and km 108.5. The first is outside the French anti-doping agency at Chatenay-Malabry, the other on the Champs Elysees.

14:00 CEST   
The race started in Marcoussis and it's only 26km south of Paris. But the peloton will head south-west first, before looping back to the French capital. Alberto Contador is pretty yellow, including the frame of his sun glasses.

14:02 CEST   
The peloton is passing a field on their left where the local farmers have a marked a giant bicycle with white chalk. And the real start has happened. The waving of the flag from Tour Director Christian Prudhomme marks the end of the neutral zone.

14:04 CEST   
Stefan Schumacher of Gerolsteiner is towards the back of the field. He wasn't too pleased with his Tour. He did well yesterday, leading ahead of Cancellara and Hoste, but crashed with 12km to go. Hincapie talks to Contador on his left. Hincapie knows very well how it feels to bring his captain onto the Champs.

14:07 CEST    2km/144km to go
So the 'front group' of Contador, Moreau, Soler, Boonen and Txurruka has been 'brought back'. We haven't seen any champagne flowing yet. Is is a sign that Evans and Predictor aren't in celebration mood yet? Maybe we will see a tough battle all the way to the finish.

14:10 CEST   
Moreau smiles into the camera and waves, before stuffing a sports bar in his mouth. The pace is still bearable, at around 20 to 25km/h. The peloton goes over a freeway bridge. And the camera goes back to Christophe Moreau, the French hero. He gets a lot of attention.

14:12 CEST    4km/142km to go
Most riders have rolled down their arm warmers, or stuffed them away. Levi Leipheimer is used to temperatures in St. Rosa, California, though, and still has his black arm warmers up all the way. It is overcast today and one wouldn't call it a heat wave, either.

14:15 CEST   
Contador comes back to the field after he went to the team car. He passes German Champion Fabian Wegmann on his all yellow bike. It used to be that riders had to wear black shorts or at least the team shorts. Mario Cipollini changed all this, wearing yellow pants when he was in yellow or star and stripes, matching his American Cannondale bike. He probably doesn't remember the amount of fines he paid in his career. Well, his teams paid... Bit he did manage to get the rules changed, so we get the nice views of a green Boonen and a yellow Contador.

14:18 CEST    7km/139km to go
The pace has picked up a bit, it's now between 30 to 35. It still looks like a Sunday afternoon family ride as the riders master a large round about. They opt for the right and it's the shortest way around.

14:19 CEST   
Normally, the final stage is very processional and this should certainly be the case until close to that first sprint. The intermediate time bonuses, of which there are two, will earn 6", 4" and 2" for the first three past the line. So that means that a maximum of 12" is possible here. Then the finishing sprint will also see a bonus being awarded; in this case, the gains are 20", 12" and 8".

Cadel Evans started today 23" behind Alberto Contador and just 8" ahead of Levi Leipheimer. He needs to either win two bonus sprints and place second on the stage, or win the stage and take a total of 4" in the intermediate gallops. That's providing Contador doesn't get anything himself; in other words, it's a pretty tall order.

However if he can get clear in a group which finishes ahead of the peloton, then he could gain a bit of time that way.

What's important to mention is that the green jersey competition is also up for grabs so the sprinters should be going for these same intermediate points. That'll make things more difficult for the GC riders to pick up something.

Tom Boonen starts this final stage in the maillot vert. He has 234 points, 24 more than Robert Hunter (Barloworld) and 28 up on Erik Zabel (Milram). Each of the intermediate sprints will award 6, 4 and 2 points. As for the stage win, the first 25 riders past the line will pick up points. These are 35, 30, 26, 24, 22, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1.

If Boonen stays out of trouble and keeps close to (or, even better, ahead of!) his rivals, he should be safe as regards taking the first Tour green jersey of his career.

14:20 CEST   
The next roundabout is taken on the left. The centre is a large round field and many people have gathered here to watch the peloton go by on this last day of this year's Tour.

14:21 CEST   
A church bell! We haven't heard them much in the last couple of days, as the field has through Gometz la Ville. Again, many people have come out to cheer the riders on as they go on the narrow two lane road through downtown.

Sandy Casar (Française Des Jeux)
Photo ©: Gregor Brown

14:25 CEST   
Sandy Casar is at the back of the field. He finally got a stage win in the Tour, after three second places in the past few years, including this year when he was beaten by Cedric Vasseur. His bandage from the right arm is gone. The win certainly helped him heal quicker after his unfortunate encounter with a dog at almost 60km/h!

14:29 CEST    12km/134km to go
With the speed still the same, the field heads through Frileuse. If they want to avoid the rain they better hurry a bit. It's certainly a chance of a wet finish on the Champs today, which will make the cobble stone section particularly tricky.

Current situation

  • Peloton groupé

14:33 CEST   
As the field heads through the small patches of forests typical for the area outside Paris, they go past the church St. Denis. It also rings for the Tour riders. The peloton rides double file mostly, with team-mates and friends chatting to each other.

14:38 CEST   
The kid's race on the Champs was won by a little 'garçon of Merignac. During the Tour kids had the chance to ride the final before the pro's. All were dressed in yellow, provided by a sponsor. This was done on 14 occasions during the 2007 Tour, with today being the highlight. The kids had a great sprint finish down the Champs Elysées

14:43 CEST    20km/126km to go
One Gerolsteiner rider has his vest on still! Patches of blue are showing ion-between some clouds, so maybe we will have a dry finish after all. But there are still some pretty dark clouds as well. At any rate, the peloton is still not in a hurry, as they take a sharp right in Le Marais.

14:44 CEST   
The final stage tends to be run off at a relaxed pace until close to Paris, when the racing begins. However in 2004 things were different; Filippo Simeoni (Domina Vacanze) attacked in the first kilometres and caused chaos in the bunch. This led the USPS-Berry Floor squad of Lance Armstrong to chase for seven or eight kilometres.

The move was seen as a reaction to the tactics of Lance Armstrong two days earlier in that Tour, the Texan having forced Simeoni to drop out of a breakaway group with the threat that if he did not do so, he [Armstrong] would stay in the break and thus cause the teams of the other overall contenders to chase the move down. Simeoni was suing Armstrong at the time in a defamation of character case. Armstrong had called Simeoni a liar after the Italian said that Armstrong's coach, Dr. Michele Ferrari, had supplied him [Simeoni] with doping products.

14:45 CEST   
No lack of Châteaux in this area. The next one is on the rider's left as the peloton has bunched up some more and they are riding for abreast. And Voeckler flats. He waits at the right hand side of the road and holds his wheel up, to make sure his team car knows what is going on.

14:47 CEST    21.5km/124.5km to go
Thomas Voeckler has no trouble coming back in no time, passing the team cars and then hitting the end of the peloton.

14:47 CEST   
Normally the yellow jersey gets champagne while pedalling along. Not too much, mind...just enough to keep the photographers happy as they snap-snap-snap away.

14:50 CEST   
Fabian Wegmann has a Bart Simpson mask! He's wearing it now.

This final stage can bring some funny moments, such as the tried and trusted 'tallest guy in the bunch on the smallest guy's bike' move.

Charly Wegelius (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

14:55 CEST   
Our reader Dennis informs us that Charlie Wegelius grew up in Kirkkonummi (Kyrkslätt in Swedish), just like him. It's a little town some 30km west of Helsinki. Wegelius rides for the Liquigas team and was about 6 minutes down in yesterday's time trial. He is 45th in the overall, ahead of names like De la Fuente, Vasseur and Cuesta.

14:58 CEST   
This is Wegelius' first Tour, but he has taken part in several Giri d'Italia. This season he was part of the Liquigas team of Danilo di Luca who won the Italian race.

14:59 CEST   
On the field of the left a horse is trying to keep up with the peloton. Its rider is not one of the Tour guys, just somebody on a horse. With the speed of the peloton horse and rider have no trouble keeping up.

15:00 CEST    28km/118km to go
The first climb is in 23 kilometres. The riders are moving quite slowly now. A Quick.Step - Innergetic rider takes the opportunity to jump off his bike and head into a field for a toilet break. Stomach trouble, we suspect.

15:05 CEST   
Unfortunately the SRM data doesn't appear to be in operation today. It would have been interesting to see how low the heart rates are at this pace! Anyway, we hope you enjoyed the chance to supplement this live coverage with streaming data from some of the riders in the Tour.

15:05 CEST   
The riders are in the 'parc national regional de la Haute vallée de Chevreuse, passing the Château Porgés. It's situated on a little hill, surrounded by trees, with a long straight road leading up to it. There is a also the Eglise d'Assomption, but strangely enough no bells are ringing

15:07 CEST   
Perhaps Quasimodo is on a day off..

15:07 CEST   
Christian Vande Velde has ended the rumours and confirmed that he will be going to Team Slipstream next season. This will be exciting for the American outfit led by Jonathan Vaughters.

15:10 CEST   
Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) is at the team car. Will he try something still? After he was done discussing things with his directeur sportif he went back to the end of the peloton and discusses some more with team-mate Johan van Summeren, before heading forward again. We will see!

Cadel Evans gave it a great effort
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:12 CEST    34km/112km to go
Contador is chatting with Spanish compatriot Pereiro. Easier to speak in your native language. The Lotto boys Aerts, Hoste and Van Summeren are still hanging at the back. Truce for now. The sprint isn't coming up for another 40km.

Current situation

  • Peloton groupé

15:19 CEST   
The German riders were seen discussing things earlier. Will they follow through with a protest on the Champs? The spectators don't care - they cheer the riders on, some using a step ladder to have a better view and one lady not caring much for the peloton, instead using her yellow umbrella to get some attention from the helicopter camera - we can also clearly see her opening and closing the umbrella from our blimp.

15:21 CEST   
The peloton rides along between a corn field on the right and a wheat field on the left. Paris, the agricultural capital...

15:22 CEST   
Even if the GC stays the same today, Cadel Evans fans have good reason to cheer him on. Second overall is the best Australian performance to date in the Tour; Phil Anderson was twice fifth, a position Evans equalled last year. He told AFP that he believes he can win a Tour.

"I'm still on my progression. I debuted in eighth, then I came fifth and now second. I've got a good five or six years of Tour riding in front of me, I think."

It remains to be seen if Evans will try something today. He'll also need to keep an eye on Levi Leipheimer, who is himself just 8" further back.

15:28 CEST   
The field will be happy to pedal slow for now and fast around the Champs later. It is perfect preparation for the post-Tour criteriums, which start as soon as tomorrow! The crits were started to give communities the opportunity to see the Tour heroes. The results aren't usually important - the important part is to see the heroes. In the mean time the field passes the Château Dampierre, built in the 17th century.

15:29 CEST    43km/103km to go
And now the Château mauvières - do those castles never stop? Bit all are pretty and also have nice locations in the forests. It's a little far to the next bike shop.

15:31 CEST   
The nice thing about being out in the country side is that taking a natural break is no problem. Many riders take the opportunity to stop on the side of the road.

George Hincapie (Discovery)
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

15:34 CEST   
We are still in the Chevreuse valley, in the natural 'parc'. Ralf Grabsch (Milram) and the sprinter Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner) are discussing things. Are they talking about the latest stock market crashes, the newest training tips or a potential protest? It is their secret.

15:37 CEST    47km/99km to go
George Hincapie is discussing things with a few Agritubel and Liquigas riders. He has a rain cape stashed in his back pocket. The neon number that the riders leading the team classification are wearing will provide a safety measure should it be getting darker and start raining. Never go without a tail light or at least reflector. The Château de la Madeline is passed, less than 100km from the finish.

Current situation

  • Peloton groupé

15:43 CEST    50km/96km to go
We are close to the first climb of the day. The top is in about 1km

15:44 CEST   
Some riders are out of the saddle but everything is together and some riders are even smiling. Hoste and Casar are close to the front.

15:48 CEST    52km/94km to go
Thomas Lövkvist (Française Des Jeux) has a cycling cap underneath the helmet. The Swede should find the temps agréable. And here goes the mountain goat! Gert Steegmans (Quickstep-Innergetic) accelerates out of the peloton and does the sprinter's tiger jump to get his wheel across the mountain top in first. Ok, so that wasn't a serious sprint, with Steegmans being 20 metres ahead of the field. Lövkvist and Frederik Willems (Liquigas) get second and third.

15:52 CEST   
The peloton splits up in Les Hauts de St. Rémy around a round about. One half to the left and one half to the right. And coming back together at the other side. Dekker and Boogerd are discussing things. The two were hoping to arrive today with yellow in their team and have the honour to lead the bunch to the Champs. But things have changed with the exclusion of leader Rasmussen. And Boogerd missed out on the stage win a couple of days ago.

15:53 CEST    54km/92km to go
A little split in the field, but more caused by the down hill than by any action on the front. Pineau was at the back, with his rain jacket flapping in the wind on the downhill.

15:55 CEST    55km/91km to go
Wow, Steegmans takes the second KOM. He looks to get closer to Soler in the mountains classification. Sorry Gert, that was it for any available mountain points and Soler will keep it. Thanks Goodness the doping charges that some overly excited journalists have spread a couple of days ago were completely false.

15:57 CEST   
Albasini and Popovych get second and third on that last KOM of the day. Now all is left is the flat run-in to Paris. But we are curious about the sprint coming up at km 72 - so in less than 20km. Will Contador and Evans go for it?

Levi Leipheimer pulled out a fantastic performance
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

16:00 CEST   
Oops, one rider went around the left, whereas the peloton went around the right of a roundabout, which is shorter...In the mean time Leipheimer stuffs in a PowerBar. Looks like the 'Wild Berry' flavour. Yumm!

16:09 CEST    65km/81km to go
The riders are getting closer to this first bonus sprint. Will Contador/Evans/Leipheimer sprint? Just in case, two Discovery riders are on the front - Popovych and, we think, Gusev. The pace is still pretty relaxed.

16:13 CEST   
The temperatures are around 17 degrees centigrade. It's mostly cloudy, but not too cold, so many riders have done away with the arm warmers. Some spectators are using the separate bike path as the grand stand. And the camera motor bike uses it as a way to get some pix of the peloton from the side...The field is split as well, with some dividers in the middle of the road making it necessary for some to ride on the left, 'against traffic'

16:17 CEST   
The peloton is near the airport Orly, where some riders may fly out tonight from. But some will stay in Paris for the night, to celebrate the finish.

16:18 CEST   
There's still no sign of the pace being wound up prior to this first intermediate sprint..

16:18 CEST   
Just in case, Boonen is close to the front. We are not sure where Evans and the two Disco riders are just yet.

16:20 CEST    71km/75km to go
The peloton goes over a bridge across the rail road tracks, while some kids are running on the side walk, trying to keep up. Voigt and Vasseur are in an animated discussion. Jens is gesturing a lot with his right hand. His left side is pretty banged up still from the crash on one of the cols (down, not up.)

16:21 CEST    71.2km/74.8km to go
Just over two kilometres to go until the sprint and the pace is still very relaxed...

16:23 CEST   
From the blimp we can already see the Eiffel Tower. The riders are in the outskirts of Paris and won't see the famous "Tour Eiffel" yet. It's blocked by the houses.

16:24 CEST   
Now two Quick.Step riders go off the front, seeking to absorb the points. It's Barredo and one other.

16:24 CEST   
There's less than 500 metres to go so it looks like nobody of significance is going to contest this.

Lilian Jégou
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

16:26 CEST   
That's not to insult Barredo, of course, just saying that he is not a contender in the tight yellow or green jersey competitions!

The two are passed right before the line by Lilian Jegou (Française des Jeux). But the three were going at perhaps 30 - 35 km/h; not really a sprint.

16:27 CEST   
Second and third were Carlos Barredo and Steven de Jongh, both of Boonen's Quick.Step - Innergetic team.

16:34 CEST    79km/67km to go
Casar is at the end, lifting his arm. He wants some attention from the team car, as the peloton rides by an observatory. But too cloudy today to see anything. And the stars are riding in the Tour anyway.

16:35 CEST   
Evans didn't contest the sprint but we are sure his team-mates wouldn't mind trying to get him into first place overall, even if it is a tough ask. The motivation, apart from the prestige, is the considerable difference in prize money. The winner of this year's Tour de France will get 450,000 euro, which he will split between his team. The second-placed rider gets less than half that, earning 200,000 euro!

Personally, I'd sprint in that case :)

16:36 CEST   
The peloton heads down a wooded area, then manage to safely pass one of the gazillions roundabouts. The pace is slowing down again as they ride through Meudon, where again many people have come out. The weather is holding up so far.

Current situation

  • Peloton groupé

16:39 CEST   
Levi Leipheimer also has good reason to try to make up the handful of seconds which separate him and Evans; his third place overall is worth 100,000 euro.

So, have they:

a) Decided to let things stand today?
b) Decided to only start racing when they get to Paris?
c) Agreed on a truce whereby Leipheimer won't try to take second if Evans agrees not to chase first?
d) Some other, as yet undetermined tactic?

Answers on a postcard to the Cyclingnews blimp..

16:42 CEST    84km/62km to go
Other race news: Santi Botero won the prologue of the Tour of Colombia, by 8 seconds. The race will head into the mountains soon. Another Colombian is of course making headlines here. Mauricio Soler from the Barloworld team is the winner of the polka dot jersey this year!

16:44 CEST   
The filed is now passing the building of L'Equipe on the left, the newspaper that really started the Tour (it was called L'Auto back then). L'Equipe is a more fitting name.

16:45 CEST    87km/59km to go
Change at the front of the field, as the pace picks up. The river Seine to the right it's now Discovery on the front. They will lead Contador onto the Champs, as it's the tradition. The France television building is passed now as well.

16:47 CEST   
The field is now close to the mini version of the Statue of Liberty (11 metres high). It's on an island in the Seine that is connected to both sides of the river via a bridge.

16:48 CEST   
The Eiffel Tower is looming on the right, ahead of the field. The most beautiful sight for a cyclist, now doubt.

16:49 CEST   
The Tower is near on the 'Champs de Mars'. For the millennium celebration there were lights installed that now blink periodically at night. The riders head down through a tunnel.

16:51 CEST    92km/54km to go
This tunnel looks rather dimly lit, but the riders have no trouble finding their way. Discovery is still at the front, keeping the pace closer to a race pace now. We are close to the Place de la Concorde now, already on the circuit that the field will have to do 8 times.

Alberto Contador struggles to the line
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

16:53 CEST   
Egoi Martinez is on the front of the bunch as they head towards the Champs Elysees. Then George Hincapie takes over.

16:54 CEST    94.8km/51.2km to go
Hincapie leads the riders up what is perhaps the most famous street in the world. He's been with the US Postal/Discovery team for all eight of its Tour triumphs. The others then take over, with Contador sitting seventh in line.

16:56 CEST   
The riders climb towards the Arc de Triomphe, having crossed the finish line once.

The photographers at the top will do their utmost to get good shots of Contador in the maillot jaune in front of that monument.

16:57 CEST    97km/49km to go
Thor Hushovd won here last year, taking his second victory of the race. The Credit Agricole rider will hope to do so again. He's already taken a stage in the race, so it would equal his tally from last year if he manages to do so.

16:58 CEST   
What an end to the Thueringen Rundfahrt, the week long stage race for women. After almost 600km American Amber Neben got beaten by three tenths of a second!!! Judith Arndt won the overall for the first time in her career. What a fight! Arndt said that Neben is a great competitor and counts her among the favourites for the Worlds in Stuttgart.

16:59 CEST    98.1km/47.9km to go
An Agritubel rider attacks; it is Freddy Bichot.

17:00 CEST    99.5km/46.5km to go
He heads past the huge Ferris wheel and has quite a decent lead at this point. But it's a very difficult thing to stay clear of a hungry peloton..

17:01 CEST   
He's got 15" here as he crosses the line.

17:01 CEST    100km/46km to go
The gap is 15 seconds as the bunch hits the finish line for the second passage.

17:01 CEST   
Cancellara has punctured...

17:02 CEST   
A Predictor Lotto rider attacks! We don't think it is Evans, though...maybe Horner. He gets hauled back.

17:03 CEST   
There is an incredible amount of people out, many with yellow T-shirts. The spectators are certainly not boycotting the Tour. Cancellara has a flat, about 100m from the finish line as they were heading into the third lap.

17:03 CEST   
It was Horner. He's back in the peloton, but another rider tries to go. Caisse d'Epargne. But no joy.

17:04 CEST    102km/44km to go
Bichot rounds the corner at the top of the Champs Elysees but is caught. Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne) and Marcus Burghardt (T-Mobile) try to go clear but nothing is really working thus far.

17:05 CEST    104km/42km to go
The crowds are very big here, as you might expect.

17:05 CEST   
No matter the high speeds, you need to eat. A Barloworld guy rides with one hand at 60km/h on the cobbled streets and uses the other to get some Gel out. Very skilled!

17:06 CEST   
It must be an incredible sensation to race here...huge crowds, very wide streets, historic backdrop.

17:06 CEST   
Cancellara made it back to the field despite the high speeds. Arvesen is with him.

17:07 CEST   
Simon Gerrans (Ag2r - Prévoyance) is trying to go across to a Liquigas and a Milram rider.

17:10 CEST    106.7km/39.3km to go
Correction - it was a Gerolsteiner rider. A group of ten riders are clear heading towards the finish line for the next crossing.

Gerrans is there, Jose Ivan Gutierrez, Nicolas Portal (both Caisse d'Epargne), Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner), Christian Knees (Milram), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Mickael Delage (Française Des Jeux), Murilo Fischer (Liquigas) and Anthony Charteau (Credit Agricole).

17:11 CEST   
They have been clear for a lap now and have a 15" lead. Took a while to note all those names :)

Simon Gerrans (AG2r Prévoyance)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
Click for larger image

17:11 CEST    109.1km/36.9km to go
Tour of Flanders winner Ballan drives it, then the others come through. They are all working well now.

17:12 CEST   
100% co-operation is needed if they are to stand a chance.

17:13 CEST   
The intermediate sprint went to Gerrans ahead of Ballan and Portal. So the general classification riders (and the sprinters) lose out.

17:13 CEST    111.4km/34.6km to go
Barloworld are leading the chase for Robert Hunter.

17:14 CEST   
The gap is now up to 27". The whole Barloworld team are on the front, including the youngest rider in the race, Geraint Thomas. Well done to him for reaching Paris.

17:14 CEST   
A win by Hunter today would help his green jersey hopes, to say the least..

17:14 CEST   
He is second to Tom Boonen in those standings.

17:15 CEST    112.8km/33.2km to go
The peloton comes out of the tunnel and continues to chase. The gap is 27".

17:15 CEST   
The Australian Gerrans would love to do something here.

17:16 CEST   
Knees leads them across the finish line for the fourth crossing.. Five laps to go.

17:17 CEST   
Each lap is 6.5 kilometres. Barloworld are riding hard but thus far, the gap remains at 27 seconds.

17:21 CEST   
The main field is very stretched out. The pace is incredibly high. Flecha is always hanging at the back. He hasn't taken a pull yet, waiting for his trademark attack later.

17:22 CEST   
If Boonen holds on to green, it will be a happy moment for him. He changed his race programme this year, aiming to hit form later in the season in order to have a good Tour. He finished the race in 2004, winning the final stage ahead of Jean-Patrick Nazon (AG2R Prévoyance), Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner), Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) and Erik Zabel (T-Mobile Team).

17:22 CEST    119km/27km to go
With 27 kilometres remaining the gap is up to 33"... Portal leads for now as they head towards the finish line once more.

17:23 CEST    119.5km/26.5km to go
Big George is riding right in front of Contador. That is some good protection for the Spaniard!

17:23 CEST   
The Place de la Concorde is spectacular...a huge cobblestoned area leading onto the Champs Elysees.

17:23 CEST    120km/26km to go
Scholz leads the break over the line for the fifth crossing. They have 33" now.

17:24 CEST   
Barloworld remain on the front; 34" gap, so it's rising at the moment.

17:25 CEST    121km/25km to go
The gap is now 37". They may be happy to leave this break out there for a while, as it will dissuade others from trying.

17:25 CEST   
Julian Dean is sitting a bit far back. Hopefully he can move up later to help Hushovd win again. That would be a great finish for the Credit Agricole team.

Hushovd sends Erik Zabel (Milram) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

17:25 CEST   
Ballan leads the break up to the 180 degree bend. He rides on the non-cobbled part of the road on the extreme right.

17:26 CEST    122.1km/23.9km to go
The gap is now 43"! That's pretty good going.

17:27 CEST   
No sign of any move by Evans or Leipheimer. They won't be able to do anything at this pace.

17:28 CEST    124km/22km to go
The peloton is now 45" back. It is thundering down the far side of the Champs Elysées. Boonen sits near the front, with Contador on his wheel. Moreau is a little further back.

17:29 CEST   
Flecha looks to be having a hard time here. One of the Barloworld rider is on the front, using invisible time trial bars.. That could be risky, especially with your whole team on the wheel! Don't crash...

17:30 CEST   
They come out of the tunnel and it is still Barloworld doing everything. They have taken two stage wins thus far, one by Hunter and the other by Soler.

17:30 CEST    126.5km/19.5km to go
Gerrans is on the front heading towards the sixth passage of the finish line. Then Ballan and Portal come through. Three laps to go..

17:31 CEST    127km/19km to go
Barloworld is still leading the peloton, followed by Discovery. They are lined up single file, the speeds are incredibly high.

17:31 CEST   
The peloton now hit the line, with the gap at 42". Soler is sitting at the back of his team's line.

17:31 CEST   
Evans has a cluster of team-mates around him, as do Contador and Leipheimer.

17:32 CEST   
Evans is setting protected by his Predictor team mates. Barloworld is down to three riding in the front. The speed definitely will take its toll on those who make the pace.

17:32 CEST   
Flecha is hanging off the back of the break. He's been quite quiet during this Tour.

17:33 CEST   
Now Dmitriy Fofonov (Credit Agricole) comes to the front to help the Barloworld riders. He'll be hoping Hushovd has good legs today.

17:33 CEST   
Credit Agricole takes over with Fofonov. Barloworld is still staying close to the front, but the red colours are a bit further back as three Credit Agricole riders take the front.

17:33 CEST    128.2km/17.8km to go
The gap is coming down now, 35". Some splatters of rain are falling; that will make the cobbles very slippery if it continues.

17:33 CEST   
Halgand takes over, wit Botcharov on his wheel.

17:34 CEST   
Patrice Halgand (Credit Agricole) is now on the front.

17:34 CEST    130km/16km to go
Three Barloworld's are still near the front , but it is the Credit Agricole work which has diminished the lead to 30 secs

17:35 CEST   
Boonen's team probably don't have to do much; he's leading the green jersey classification, after all, and if this break stays clear that will suit them just fine. Well, he'd like to go for the stage win, but he can let the teams of those who want to take his maillot vert do the work.

17:35 CEST   
Lampre is moving up on the right. They have Ballan in the break and Bennati for the sprint. Soler is pushing through. He prefers the mountains, no doubt.

17:36 CEST   
And the field is passing the Place de la Concorde again. Left, right, left.

17:36 CEST    130.6km/15.4km to go
The break are still 30" clear. Flecha still sits at the back; is he planning on taking a flyer, or is he stuffed? He's certainly been hanging a bike length or two back, which would suggest a) he's tired, or b) he's in line for an Oscar. We will see.

17:37 CEST    132km/14km to go
The peloton is riding along the Seine to their right, stretched out. They are going 50, 52 km/h

17:37 CEST   
The riders are now inside the final 14 kilometres of this year's Tour de France! Contador needs to be careful on these cobbles.

17:38 CEST    132.7km/13.3km to go
As Gerrans brings the break over the line for the seventh crossing, the gap is 24". Two laps to go...

17:39 CEST    134km/12km to go
19" now... Will the peloton bring these back?

17:40 CEST   
Credit Agricole and Barloworld in the front, then it's Lampre, then Discovery. So Soler is actually ahead of the yellow jersey right now. It's safest to stay close to the front. Less chance of crashing. Big George is still guiding the Kid Contador.

17:40 CEST   
Gerrans is doing a lot of the work; he's riding well. Ballan too, he's back on the front.

17:40 CEST    135km/11km to go
The peloton can see the break ahead as they are close to the turn at the l'Arc de Triomphe.

17:41 CEST   
Flecha is stuffed; he lost a few lengths on the uphill drag to the Arc de Triomphe. He gets back on.

17:41 CEST   
Ok, now he is going through...maybe some words were said to him for sitting on..

17:41 CEST    136km/10km to go
The peloton now turns. They could see the break as the 10 were heading the other way. Only 18 secs now

17:42 CEST    136km/10km to go
Ten kilometres to go! The gap is 20".

17:42 CEST   
There is a bottle on the ground, but the peloton safely misses it. That could cause a problem.

17:43 CEST    137km/9km to go
Two Barloworlds and three Credit riders are leading the bunch, which makes its name honour and is a little more bunched up. Maybe the pace is going down, as the lead is going up again. 21 secs

17:43 CEST    137.4km/8.6km to go
The break looks a bit less organised now... Ballan goes to the front and gives it another injection of pace.

17:43 CEST   
Zabel is safely tucked in. Can he finally win in the sprinter's heaven in Paris?

17:44 CEST   
The peloton is heading through the tunnel again, led by Botcharov.

17:44 CEST   
It's getting a bit scrappy at the front. Gerrans pushes the pace at the front. They need to keep this going..

17:45 CEST   
They come up on the other side. The uphill out of the tunnel is painful!

17:45 CEST    138.1km/7.9km to go
Attack! Gutierrez and Flecha have gone, the Spaniard starting the move. Flecha's Academy Award is being cleaned and ready for presentation if he can stay clear..

17:45 CEST    139.5km/6.5km to go
Two Barlo's are now at the back. They have done their share of work and will just try to finish. And then do the lap of honour after the race.

17:46 CEST    139.5km/6.5km to go
Flecha looks strong, he's doing much of the work. The others have been caught and they only have 10" at the bell..one lap to go..

17:46 CEST   
Flecha goes through and pushes the pace. But they are toast...

17:46 CEST    140km/6km to go
They have been caught...

17:47 CEST   
Barloworld and Lampre are at the front, also a Credit Agricole rider.

17:47 CEST    140.6km/5.4km to go
Lampre have this lined out for Daniele Bennati...

17:48 CEST    141km/5km to go
Five kilometres...they are about to turn at the Arc de Triomphe for the final time..

17:48 CEST    141.5km/4.5km to go
Lampre still doing it all..the speed is really high...

17:48 CEST    142km/4km to go
Will Evans or Leipheimer try anything?

17:49 CEST   
It's still Lampre...one of their riders hurls a bottle to the side of the road.

17:49 CEST   
Further back in the bunch, many riders are trying to move up. Boonen will need to get into position..he has a green jersey to defend..

17:50 CEST    2.5km/143.5km to go
The riders are in one long line..

17:50 CEST   
New Zealand champion Julian Dean is now where he belongs, getting ready to deliver big Thor Hushovd of Norway to the line!

17:51 CEST   
Quick.Step and Milram are getting into position, waiting for the right moment

17:51 CEST    144.3km/1.7km to go
They are inside the final 3 kilometres now, so if there is a crash they all get the same time.

17:51 CEST    145km/1km to go
One kilometre to go! Credit Agricole hits the front...

17:52 CEST   
No sign of Evans...we guess he won't try anything.

17:52 CEST   
Boonen is moving up..

17:52 CEST   
They are onto the finishing straight..

17:52 CEST   
Hunter and Boonen are sprinting hard...

17:53 CEST   
But it is Bennati! He did a superb sprint and takes his second win of the Tour!

17:53 CEST   
He won one in a break, then one here on the Champs Elysees. Contador is congratulated by his team.

17:54 CEST   
Boonen faded badly in the sprint, but took fifth...that will be enough for green. His first maillot vert.

17:54 CEST   
Wow...Cancellara was seventh and David Millar eighth in that sprint..

17:55 CEST   
Sebastian Rosseler led it out for Boonen but Bennati thundered through and held off Hushovd by about a metre. Zabel took third.

17:56 CEST   
Hunter was fourth...he's ridden well in this Tour.

17:59 CEST   
"The legs were good but the stress and all the attention for the jersey was hard," said Tom Boonen. He said that today he was riding to make sure of the green jersey, and that he's a bit tired mentally after three weeks of racing for the maillot vert.

18:01 CEST   
So Contador takes yellow ahead of Evans and Leipheimer in what is one of the closest Tour finishes in years. The young Spaniard is also landing the white jersey as best young rider, while Boonen gets green ahead of Hunter and Zabel. Colombian rider Juan Mauricio Soler keeps up his country's great tradition, finishing here in Paris as the best climber. He has a promising future ahead of him...

18:05 CEST   
Well, thanks to all for following what was a very suspenseful, exciting and sometimes-scandalous Tour with us here on Cyclingnews! We are going to take the blimp in for a much-needed service, so that completes our live coverage for today and indeed for the 2007 race. However we'll be back soon to bring you unfolding action from the remaining top events of this season.

Before then, make sure to surf on back over shortly for the results, report and news from today. Au revoir from Paris!

Provisional standings

1 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
4 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld
5 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic
6 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française Des Jeux
7 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC
8 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval-Prodir
9 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
10 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas

Final General Classification
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team          91.00.26
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto                                            0.23
3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team                       0.31
4 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC                                            7.08
5 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                               8.17
6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                            11.37
7 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile Team                                               12.18
8 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team                    12.25
9 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                           14.14
10 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                                     14.25

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