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95th Tour de France - GT

France, July 5-27, 2008

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Stage 21 - Sunday, July 27: Étampes - Paris/Champs Élysées, 143km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Bjorn Haake

Finally, the last stage is here and the Tour has reached Paris. For many in the peloton this is a victory in itself, but many others have designs on a stage win on the most famous boulevard in the world. It's very likely that a breakaway will try to get away and win the day – everybody wants to be the first man on the Champs Élysées – but it's almost inevitable that they will be reeled in by the sprinters teams and one of the fast men will triumph.

The Champs Élysées is a much more complicated sprint than many other places though. Aside from the cobbles, the course crosses the Place de la Concorde with less than half a kilometre to go and the resulting chicane serves to disrupt a sprinter's train. The winner is usually one of the best sprinters, but rarely the one whose team has led him out.

Étampes is yet another first time stage town, but Paris of course has hosted all 95 of them. Before the course reaches the capital though, there are two fourth category climbs to negotiate – unusual for the final day – which could decide a close polka dot jersey classification.

12:48 CEST   
Bonjour and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage from the Tour de France one final time this year. 143 kilometres stand between the start of the final stage and the party on the Champs-Elysées.

143 kilometres that will be marked by champagne, chatting, smiling, photo time and a fun time in the peloton. That is, until the bunch spots the Tour Eiffel. Then the Pavlov reflex kicks in and the race will get fast and furious.

Speeds will hover between 50 and 60 km/h. Attacks will go off left and right. Domestiques will try to surprise the sprinters. It almost never works, but they keep trying. And then one of the last remaining questions of this year's Tour will be answered: Who is the king of the Champs-Elysées?

13:08 CEST   
Today's race will start 13:35. There will be a 100- kilometre neutral start. Just kidding. It is actually 4.5 kilometres. The real start will be at 13:45. But as is tradition with the victor decided, there will be a bit of celebration first. When the race will start in earnest depends on when the Frenchman get itchy. Especially the ones that still hope to get the most combative rider overall award. It will be decided by a jury including journos, cycling celebrities and members from the organiser. We think Sylvain Chavanel will be the hottest candidate for the prize.

13:24 CEST   
The weather forecast is OK. It is supposed to rain all around Paris, but the capital should stay dry. The temperatures are again pretty high. Paris is expected to get 29 degrees. We predict a sun-resistant rider ahead today.

13:28 CEST   
Sun-resistant? Who would be better suited as South African Robert Hunter. Hunter told Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson before the start that he hasn't counted himself out just yet. "I'm very happy with my Tour so far. Obviously I haven't achieved what I wanted to yet [a stage win], but I'm not disappointed, that's for sure. Today will give me one more chance, so we'll see."

Hunter will bank on his Bianchi 928 Carbon T-Cube to deliver the win. Cyclingnews' Tech Editor James Huang has dissected the bike to see if Hunter can be competitive.

Can Robbie Hunter win today? He has a nice Bianchi to go for it!
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

13:33 CEST   
Five riders are ahead right now: Oscar Freire, Bernhard Kohl, Carlos Sastre and Andy Schleck have the distinct jerseys (green, polka-dot, yellow and white). Sylvain Chavanel is also ahead. He is a good candidate for the most aggressive rider for the overall.

13:35 CEST   
With ahead we mean they were first at the start line, introduced one by one. Now the rest of the peloton has rolled up. Chavanel has indeed won the overall most aggressive rider award. He just said that "it's a great end to my Tour."

13:36 CEST   
Carlos Sastre also gave a final interview under sunny skies in Étampes. "I am very happy and very calm. It's a dream I had all my life."

And off they are!

13:39 CEST   
A ton of spectators are out. Lots of digital cameras are held up as the riders sneak by. They pedal fast enough to not tip over. But not faster.

David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) is chatting to his Spanish compatriot José Vicente Garcia. Caisse couldn't quite compete for the overall as they had hope for. Alejandro Valverde ran out of steam in the Pyrenees, but we are sure he will be back next year.

13:42 CEST   
The bunch is riding one block over from the train line. Some may be tempted to jump over and take the TGV. But as far as we know the TGV doesn't stop here. Oh well, you can't take your bike anyway, unless it is bagged anyway.

13:44 CEST   
The green and the yellow dudes are chatting to each other. Both are smiles and they don't have problems understanding each other. Freire and Sastre are both Spanish. Andy Schleck and Kohl also chat, likely in German. The Luxemburgers are known for being multilingual. No wonder, with their mix of official languages. German, French, Luxembourgish...

13:46 CEST   
Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) drops back to the L'Equipe motor bike. But they don't have today's paper for the French rider. Disappointed, he pedals forward and joins the back of the bunch, where he will have to chat with the others, rather than read his favourite paper.

13:48 CEST   
It is going a tad uphill. All are out of the saddle, but still riding very slowly, hoping to not go much past their resting heart rate for now.

13:48 CEST   
Cancellara has moved up to the front row and gives the victory sign. Yes, CSC can be happy, even without stage victory.

13:51 CEST   
Ok, photo time for CSC. The entire team is on the front and arm in arm. The motos from the photographers are swerving around ahead of the peloton like crazy to get their shots in. We hope to have some before the stage ends.

All CSC's bikes are equipped with yellow handle bar tape!

13:53 CEST   
Jens Voigt and Stuart O'Grady do the basketball greeting - a fist pump. Both are smiling behind both ears.

We wonder why Jens is so happy - he won't have a chance to go on the attack for another 50 or more kilometres.

13:54 CEST   
There is goes - Prudhomme waves the flag for the real start. And....

Nothing. the pace doesn't change at all. We are eight minutes behind schedule already...

13:57 CEST   
Ha!!! That was it for Prudhomme's white départ flag. José Luis Arrieta (AG2R La Mondiale) has 'snatched' it. He hands it to his directeur sportif, who can now slow down the peloton.

In the mean time, Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) has switched helmets. He took the one form the motor bike dude. Team-mate Samuel Dumoulin as well. The both 'attack' and pass the entire peloton on the right. They look like little Cofidis space-men. There is a lot of laughter as the duo passes the bunch.

13:58 CEST    2.4km/140.6km to go
The moto with the number 1 have the Cofidis bike helmets on. We wonder if that is against regulations?

14:00 CEST   
Ok, the helmets didn't work out, although they may be a tad safer than the flimsy bicycle helmets. The helmets are exchanged back and Dumoulin and Augé high-five each other.

14:05 CEST   
If we go by the Nesquik race that happens each year before the pros hit the Champs Elysées, then the yellow jersey will win. The Nesquik event lets the youngsters race before many of the stages. Today, the start was given at the flamme rouge The hotly contested sprint was won by a little kid in yellow. But then again, all the kids were wearing a yellow outfit, provided by the sponsor.

14:07 CEST   
The spectators are out in force, protecting themselves with umbrellas and sunscreen against the sun.

One person is not bothered by the Tour or the fact that it is Sunday: The farmer on the left hand side of the road has to get his harvest in before a potential rain later in the day. He creates a bit of dust, but not enough to break the spirit of the bunch.

14:08 CEST    6km/137km to go
An off-road motor biker keeps up on the right over an already harvested field.

We will describe the mood in the bunch as casual....

14:10 CEST   
Björn Schröder (Team Milram) is our man with the data today. The bunch is going 26km/h an hour and Schröder has a heart rate of 94. He pedals with 80rpm and his power output is 111.

14:13 CEST   
Carlos Sastre tests his French. "Bonjour Paris. Merci beaucoup!"

The bunch passes through La Forêt-le-Roi (King's forest). The church bells are indicating the arrival. This has been the case in many towns and villages in the last three weeks. It is one of the reasons why France goes through more church bells than any other country, we think.

Wim Vansevenant is set to win his third Lanterne rouge in the Tour. Good for some post-Tour crit invites!
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

14:17 CEST   
Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto) and team-mate Mario Aerts chat at the end, while Wim Vansevenant (Silence-Lotto) keeps shaking his head. It is unclear if Vansevenant is unhappy for Evans. The Belgian should instead celebrate his "Lanterne Rouge" win. Barring accident, he will arrive in Paris in last place, by 53 seconds.

Maybe Vansevenant is still concerned about Bernhard Eisel (Columbia). Eisel is very good in track standing and may try to lose 53 seconds. Both will have to be careful with the time cut, though, giving the advantage to the Belgian.

14:23 CEST    14km/129km to go
Yesterday's stage winner Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) drops back to the team car and chats. Is he getting some advise? Schumacher has had a great Tour. Two stage wins and several attacks in the Alps.

14:24 CEST   
A small round about is followed by a really gigantic one. But the slow speed means no trouble for the riders. The bunch passes the traffic circle to the left - the right hand side is closed off.

14:34 CEST    18km/125km to go
Oscar Freire (Rabobank) is set to become the first Spaniard to win the green jersey. All he has to make sure is to arrive in one piece in Paris. He has a 42-point lead over Erik Zabel. There is a maximum of 47 points to hand out today. But it would mean Zabel takes both sprints and the stage, while Freire would take virtually no points.

Freire talked to Daniel Benson this morning. "I feel a bit tired, coming out of the mountains, but that goes for everybody. This stage is special, as it's the last stage to Paris. If you're in good form, you can do something here. For sure winning on the Champs-Elysées would be a sprinter's dream; it would be very important."

14:36 CEST   
The bunch passes the Forêt Domaniale de Dourdan. The road is very straight. There are a few clouds, but it is mostly sunny. The good mood indicator inside the peloton is on super high.

14:40 CEST   
Riders are still coming by to shake hands with Sastre. Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) is next. Steegmans' team-mate Carlos Barredo drops back to Sastre as well. Barredo is Spanish as well and spends a bit more time on Sastre's left to have a chat and catch up on the news in their country.

Gert Steegmans still hopes for the stage win today
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

14:41 CEST   
Steegmans, done shaking hands with Sastre, summed up his Tour for Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson. "I feel fine, but it's a shame we haven't won a stage yet. It's a lot of stress for us - but the pressure comes not from our team, but from the Belgian press. We'll see how it will work today.

"We will try to do our best, like the other days. If it works out, fine, if it doesn't, it's a shame. But what else can we do? Quick Step will put on a train for me, for the sprint. Cavendish is gone, but there are still a lot of other rivals here. It's going to be hard."

14:46 CEST   
Don't drink and drive? We can't spot any team car that doesn't have a bottle of champagne. Well, except for the Quick Step one, of course.

Cofidis is particularly in celebrating mood. They had a great Tour. They have dropped back now, lined up over the road and let the photographers do their job. Everybody is lined up around Sylvain Chavanel.

The fans are cheering on the French team.

14:48 CEST    26km/117km to go
Oh, no, Sastre is at the doc's car!!! What is wrong with the Spaniard on the final day?

Ah, it is OK, Dr. Gerard Porte just wanted to congratulate as well.

14:51 CEST   
Leonardo Duque and Sylvain Chavanel line up with Sastre for another photo. We wonder how Sastre's shoulder feels now that everyone has stopped by...

Probably a lot better than Evans' shoulder in the first week, after his crash. Undoubtedly that affected him in his quest to win. Speaking of Evans, we haven't spotted him yet. He is in hiding today.

14:54 CEST    29km/114km to go
In case you were wondering, the last few kilometres Jens Voigt was on the front, albeit chatting away.

The bunch passes the château Rochefort-en-Yvelines. It looks impressive, but the bunch can't see much due to the forest. The view is better from the blimp.

14:58 CEST   
Hans-Michael Holczer, the manager of Gerolsteiner has mixed feelings. With his team's performance, he is happy."We did an exceptional Tour. Getting polka dot is incredible. We knew about Kohl's abilities in the mountains and in the time trial, but we didn't expect the podium. Before yesterday we were hoping for fifth. We were afraid of getting sixth. Getting the podium is incredible."

15:00 CEST   
But Holczer still has not found a sponsor. "The situation is tough. We still hope, we do have contacts. We may know more next week. But there is a chance that the end of the season is the end of the team. That would be a real shame."

15:02 CEST   
We have a birthday boy in the peloton today! Happy Birthday to Martijn
Maaskant of Garmin-Chipotle, who turns 25 today. The Dutchman will be very happy to reach Paris and celebrate his birthday the same day.

15:03 CEST    33km/110km to go
Jens Voigt has surrendered the spot on the front to Liquigas and Quick Step.

15:06 CEST   
Sastre is in trouble, he has dropped to the end of the peloton!

15:08 CEST   
Oh, he just went to the car #1 of Tour director Christian Prudhomme to request a drink. Bjarne Riis will only offer water, but the French organiser gives Sastre some champagne.

15:10 CEST   
Sastre toasts with Riis. The Danish team manager does not have objections. Sastre now rides next to Cancellara. Ex and hopp. The Swiss chrono specialist empties the glass quickly. He apparently can handle it well, riding along without swerving.

Fabian Cancellara (CSC) has earned the champagne with his team work, even if the time trial win eluded him
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:13 CEST    38km/105km to go
Ah, Riis now has some champagne as well. Sastre waves a Spanish flag and tries to put it in Cancellara's back pocket.
Someone from CSC, we believe it was Fränk Schleck, is not happy with the small glasses provided by ASO. "I WANT THE BOTTLE," he yells. Riis gives him a water bottle, not quite what the Luxemburger had hoped for.

Andy Schleck has his helmet on reversed. Did we mention yet that the mood is relaxed in the field?

15:16 CEST   
Lance Johnson informs us that Sastre and Andy Schleck both have special brake hoods in white and yellow made by Hudz in Boulder, Colorado

15:18 CEST   
The bunch passes a tree nursery. It looks a tad sad, with most trees not having grown up yet enough to actually be called trees. Hopefully that will change soon.

The bunch passes Bel-Air. Ahh, the air feels good and bel, indeed.

15:23 CEST   
The bunch passes the Château de Breteuil. It is, after Versailles, the most visited castle in France. It is well known for its diverse gardens. Notably a French garden, a promenade des arbres or treelined promenade. There is also a labyrinth.

Schumacher has enough of the labyrinth of the peloton. He pulls ahead a bit.

15:25 CEST    45km/98km to go
Schumacher said that "Yesterday was great. Of course when you win and get yellow, you are happy. But there are always more stages. I have really great memories on this year's Tour. We had tough stages, but now we arrive at the Champs."

15:27 CEST   
We see Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Chipotle - H30) and team-mate Danny Pate riding next to each other. Vande Velde has had a great Tour and will finish in fifth, only 3'12 down on the winner.

15:29 CEST    47km/96km to go
Kohl, who is third overall and easily won the polka-dot jersey, is coming
in for some praise from some big names. "He has proved that he is a very
good climber," according to Eddy Merckx. "He is still young and has some
good years ahead of him."

Richard Virenque, who won the climber's jersey seven time, called him "a
man of the Tour's future."

Speaking of which, the bunch approaches the first climb of the day.

15:30 CEST   
Kohl is at the front on the Còte de Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse. Nobody attacks him.

15:31 CEST   
300 more metres. A Quick Step rider comes up and seems to negotiate if he can get the points.

15:33 CEST    48km/95km to go
Quick Step desperately needs the money....

Kohl answers the attack. Eisel of Columbia gives Kohl a big push! Which makes Kohl (smiling) take maximum points. Looks it was Steegmans who gets second (smiling) and Eisel (smiling) is third.

15:34 CEST   
There have been lots of doping controls at this Tour: 415, to be exact.
Three of them turned up positive (Riccò, Dueñas and Beltrán). The French
Anti-Doping Agency conducted 210 blood tests, and the Italian Olympic
Committee did 15. In addition, there were 175 urine tests and 15 hair

15:35 CEST   
Flat in the back. It is suffered by Robbie McEwen of Australia. He should have no trouble to get back, although the pace has picked up a bit after the KOM. But only because it is a (slight) downhill.

15:37 CEST   
Alejandro Valverde chats with David Arroyo, as the two Caisse d'Epargne riders roll over a ralentisseur (speed bump).

15:39 CEST   
There are still an amazing number of fans out there (and digital cameras). Some wear a polka dot cycling hat. The sponsor, supermarket Champion, gives them out in the caravane publicitaire , which precedes the race by a couple of hours.

15:42 CEST   
The second climb of the day and Kohl is not going for it. On the Còte de Châteaufort, another cat 4, Freddy Bichot (Agritubel, smiling) throws his bike over the line, ahead of Kohl's team-mate Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner, smiling). Third is Marco Marzano (Lampre). We couldn't quite tell if he was smiling also, but if he wouldn't he would be the only one of the 145 riders in the bunch.

15:44 CEST    53km/90km to go
Oh, will we have an accident here? A guy in a yellow T-Shirt rides his bike over a piece of wire, some ten metres above the peloton. To be fair, he has a long balancing stick, but still...

15:46 CEST   
Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) has some regrets, but is hopeful for today. He talked to Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson before the start. "I am calm and my condition is good, but the results never came. I hope I can do something in today's stage - I am still going well. It is not a sprint for pure sprinters, it is a finish that is slightly uphill and on pavé, so it fits my characteristics."

15:47 CEST   
Two riders are on the bike path, one of them a Lampre guy. Their bikes look funny.
Wait, they are cyclo-tourists and they have no trouble keeping up!

15:50 CEST   
Bernhard Kohl's time trial started and ended with scary moments. He fell
off the ramp on the way to the start, and then collapsed at the doping
control afterwards. "I rode up in too low a gear and too slowly, came to
a standstill halfway up, and fell with my bike off the ramp." No harm
done, though.

But what happened afterwards was scarier, when he collapsed. "At the
finish I was totally kaputt, and after I drank something that was too
cold, my legs just gave way under me," he said on his website. "After I
lay down and elevated my legs, things got better right away."

15:52 CEST   
Sylvain Chavanel's stage 19 win has dire consequences for Cofidis
Directeur Sportif Francis van Londersele. He said before the stage if Cofidis wins it he will get rid of his hair. Londersele said that "I think my wife may not be too happy..."

15:55 CEST    60km/83km to go
We finally get a glimpse of Cadel Evans. He speeds by quickly and re-integrates in the anonymity of the bunch. We can understand that Evans doesn't feel as much as the others to joke around.

15:58 CEST   
The bunch hits a traffic island in Igny. The gendarmes wave their yellow flags and whistle to warn the riders. But the pace is still relaxed and they have no trouble to make it around. Marcus Burghardt (Columbia) nonetheless points out the traffic circle to the riders behind him. That was nice!

16:02 CEST   
Barloworld team manger Claudio Corti wasn't sure what to expect in today's finale. "We will have to see if there will be a sprint first," he told Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown. "The race has been difficult up until today. True, there are a lot of riders who recovered.

"Normally there is a sprint," he continued, thinking of his sprinter, Robert Hunter. "You need the power and experience for the last day - I hope that Hunter can win the stage. The team can't really do much because they don't have the experience to stay in the front positions leading into a sprint. They will try a little bit, but Hunter will be on his own to sprint - like all the Tour."

As a reminder, Hunter will sprint on a Bianchi 928 Carbon T-Cube.

16:05 CEST    65km/78km to go
The relaxed bunch passes Massy. There are no sprints until the Champs Elysées. So for now the pace stays relaxed. The first sprint is with 44 kilometres to go. The second is 24.5 km to go. Both are likely to go to breakaways.

16:08 CEST   
The bunch is sort of reaching the outskirts of Paris. They sort of could see the Tour Eiffel, if they had a blimp. Instead, they look at each other and enjoy all the fans out on the road.

16:10 CEST   
Aha, Evans can smile after all. The Lotto captain rides along and jokes with Carlos Barredo to his left. Then he turns to his right and encounters Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Chipotle - H30). The sun is lighting up the Aussie's face. Second ain't bad, even if one sets out to win the Tour. It is no computer game, after all.

16:13 CEST    69km/74km to go
Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto) also smiles. The team was a bit less happy with the Ukrainian. They will look to strengthen the team for next year, according to directeur sportif Marc Sergeant.

The bunch skillfully takes a 270 degree to its left.

16:16 CEST   
Another castle. There really isn't a lack of them. This time it is the château de Sceaux. Inside, you will find the Emusée de l'Île-de-France, a museum of local history. Île-de-France is the name of the dépavement in which Paris lies. It means the Island of France.

Gerald Ciolek (Columbia, right) is hoping to win the sprint today and give Columbia number six
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

16:20 CEST   
Columbia has already won a lot. Bernhard Eisel, who will miss winning the last place in the overall, sent a warning to his rivals, via Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown. "Today, the team has a good chance with Ciolek. His form is coming up. I think he has a really really good chance to win today."

16:24 CEST    75km/68km to go
CSC has hit the front and the pace picks up. Traditionally, the team of the yellow jersey gets to ride into Paris first. Burghardt has a good trick to slow the pace down. He rides up to the front and shakes hands with Stuart O'Grady. The Aussie gets distracted for a moment.

16:27 CEST   
A few more kilometres and the riders officially enter Paris. The police has put 15 kilometres of barriers up on the circuit that the riders have to fully tour seven times. Each lap is six and a half kilometres long.

16:29 CEST    78km/65km to go
O'Grady leads the bunch downhill. An S-turn forces him to slow down a bit. He signals back to the riders behind with his right hand. That puts everyone on alert mode, usually avoiding crashes, like this time.

16:31 CEST   
It is like the inhabitants of the outskirts of Paris don't have anything else to do on this sunny Sunday. Lots of people out there. What a party it is!

16:34 CEST   
Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) said before the start that "I am proud of my Tour. I did a great race. It was magnifique. I also won the super combative prize of the Tour. I will get to go to the podium."

The bunch crosses the Seine and turns right.

16:36 CEST   
The pace has picked up, but it is still CSC on the front. A motor boat on the Seine tries to keep up. The bunch goes under one of the many bridges. Bouygues Telecom passes the Paris offices. Almost home now.

16:40 CEST   
Robert Springer in Wisconsin (where Superweek is really close, one more race to go) tells us: "With Carlos Sastre's impending win at the Tour, it will be the first
time since the 1950's that one country's riders will win the Tour three
years in a row with three different riders:

Bobet 1955
Walkowiak 1956
Anquetil 1957

Pereiro 2006
Contador 2007
Sastre 2008

16:41 CEST    87km/56km to go
O'Grady leads the bunch through a tunnel. The celebrations are over soon and the racing will start. Over 50km to go and not much more than an hour. Maybe less!

Stuart O'Grady leads the bunch onto the circuit.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

16:43 CEST   
Cadel Evans is riding close to the front as the riders approach the circuit.

16:44 CEST    89.5km/53.5km to go
Rue de Tivoli, passing the Ferris wheel!

16:45 CEST    91km/52km to go
Passing the flamme rouge for the first time.

And now the Place de la Concorde, with a few cobbles, The team busses are parked behind.

16:46 CEST   
CSC leads the bunch over the finish line. Seven more laps. Many riders are waving. There is still truce in the bunch.

Sastre gets to enjoy it a bit.

16:47 CEST   
The bunch rides up the Champs-Elysées, watching the Arc de Triomphe.

16:48 CEST   
It is uphill here, which will be decisive for the sprint, just before the turnaround.

16:49 CEST   
And of course it is Cofidis that attacks! But it's not Chavanel. It is Stéphane Augé. He escapes before the 180 turn.

Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) joins him on the other side, going downhill.

16:49 CEST    94km/49km to go
But the peloton catches up. They are not ready yet to let something go.

16:51 CEST    95km/48km to go
The bunch takes a right, passing a fountain on their left. Riders are struggling at the back already. Voeckler and Van Summeren are hanging on for dear life.

16:52 CEST   
Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom) attacks, entering the tunnel that is on the circuit first. He goes down in a and comes back up first as well. A left and they pas the Ferries Wheel again. You get the picture.

16:53 CEST   
CSC is still leading the bunch. Florencio gets company by Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne).

16:53 CEST    97.5km/45.5km to go
They pass the finish line for the second time.

16:54 CEST   
The gap is small, less than 100m. On the other hand, the speeds are high. Both leaders ride in the gutter, to avoid the bad pavement.

16:56 CEST   
The barriers are about 1.50m back from the road, except for the VIP tent of PMU. That is where the two remaining sprints take place.

The first happens now. Guti wins ahead of Florencio. Posthuma gets third.

Guti adjusts his ear piece to better understand his DS. They take the 180 turn at the Arc.

16:57 CEST    101km/42km to go
The gap stays at less than 100m. The two Spaniards will gave a hard time to stay ahead. But Zabel lost his first chances to make ground on Freire.

16:58 CEST   
Van Summeren has a flat. It is the second rider with one, after Sébastien Rosseler (Quick Step) in the first lap.

16:58 CEST    102km/41km to go
Guti and Florencio are caught.

16:59 CEST   
A group of five or six emerges out of the tunnel with a lead of some 50m.

17:00 CEST    104km/39km to go
A couple of more riders have caught up, but for now the gap stays at a manageable 50m.

As they cross the line for the third time, they are caught.

17:02 CEST   
With the flag-waving, picture-snapping fans it is a good idea to put the barriers away from the road.

17:03 CEST   
The bunch is single file in the gutter up towards the Arc de Triomphe.

In the turn it bunches up as they make the tight turn. The traffic around the Arc is not bothered by the way and continues as normal. There is not the typical traffic jam, though, as most are watching the race.

17:04 CEST    108km/35km to go
CSC has taken control again as the riders speed down the Champs.

17:06 CEST   
Jason asks "By 'Ferries Wheel', do you mean 'Ferris Wheel', named after the man who built the first one, George Ferris, Jr.?

In all likelyhood, yes.

17:07 CEST   
The bunch passes the Ferris Wheel once again. It is currently at a standstill.

Vogondy and Barredo attack the bunch. The peloton is definitely still turning.

17:08 CEST   
The duo has 150m over the CSC-led bunch. They cross the line for the fourth time.

17:09 CEST    112km/31km to go
Vogondy checks back. The peloton has set up a bit. The formation is not single file, but much wider. Vogondy leads Barredo up the cobbles.

17:11 CEST   
A nice 180 left turn from the duo. But they can't quite match the aesthetics of the 143 other riders as they swing around.

Make that 142, as José Luis Arrieta (AG2R La Mondiale) tries to catch up.

17:12 CEST   
The speeds down the back side are crazy. If you have no plans for next July yet, go see it at least once.

17:12 CEST   
Arrieta can't make headway by himself. He is eight secs ahead of the bunch and ten behind the two leaders.

17:13 CEST    115km/28km to go
Well, Mr. Arrietas, what were you thinking? Jens Voigt blasts by, the bunch in tow, and passes the exhausted Spaniard.

17:14 CEST   
Voigt at the front spells trouble for the Barredo and Vogondy, though. The gap is at 20 secs, and the Ferris Wheel is turning again.

17:15 CEST    117km/26km to go
Voigt pulls of and Gustov takes over as they ride across the Place de la Concorde.

17:16 CEST   
Fifth time across the line and the sprint will come up. Will Zabel try to get two points?

17:16 CEST   
Vogondy out of the saddle as he pulls Barredo and a Gendarme looks on with one eye. The other is targeted towards the crowd, to make sure nothing happens.

17:18 CEST    118.5km/24.5km to go
Zabel does not attack and Gustov gets third place and the points. Not that he cares. Barredo led Vogondy over the line. Not that they didn't care, either.

17:18 CEST   
Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues Telecom) heads to the front and tries to initiate a break.

17:19 CEST   
He gets others interested, but the peloton stays close.

Vogondy and Barredo have been caught.

17:20 CEST   
Cheula tries to give it some speed. He will try to keep it together for Hunter.

17:21 CEST   
Unsurprisingly, Stefan Schumacher is now off the front, together with Tanking, Van Summeren and Cheula.

17:22 CEST   
The gap is only five seconds for now.

17:22 CEST    123km/20km to go
They pass the Place de la Concorde, the gap still small.

17:23 CEST   
And everything is together again. The Garmin team is in the middle of the bunch, riding huddled together. Can Julian Dean deliver today?

17:25 CEST    125km/18km to go
Vogondy is now hanging on the back, trying to recover from his attack. Voigt has taken control again on the front. The motor bike with the TV camera tries to get out of the way of the flying German.

17:26 CEST    126km/17km to go
The turn at the Arc is always fun to watch, but a bit nerve wrecking, too. Few crashes over the years have been reported on that section, though.

Sastre is in seventh, behind his CSC mates.

17:27 CEST   
CSC is Zipping along. The speeds on the downhill sections are high.

17:28 CEST   
Kanstantsin Siutsou (Columbia) is sitting behind the CSC train. He will try to keep it together for a sprint and Ciolek.

17:28 CEST   
In fact, Siutsou is now pulling away, with Botcharov and a Cofidis rider.

17:29 CEST    129km/14km to go
The trio comes out of the tunnel some 50m ahead of the bunch.

17:30 CEST    130km/13km to go
Noooooo! Robert Hunter has a flat on his brandnew Bianchi. Will he be able to come back at these speeds.

The trio passes the line for the seventh time.

17:31 CEST   
The Cofidis rider is Augé .

17:32 CEST    131km/12km to go
The gap is given at six seconds. It is unusual to not see a break get more of a lead. The sprinters must be thinking about when they blew it in stage 3. Or maybe how Vinokourov stole the win in 2005.

17:32 CEST   
The trio looks spent as they take the turnaround the penultimate time.

17:33 CEST   
In fact after the turn Botcharov takes off by himself. By himself he will even have less of a chance.

17:34 CEST   
Botcharov has his mouth wide open, gasping for air. The peloton also has its mouth wide open, ready to eat the Russian.

17:35 CEST    134km/9km to go
And that was it for Botcharov. The sprinters really try to keep it together.

Now word on Hunter and his whereabouts for the moment.

17:36 CEST    135.5km/7.5km to go
We don't see any Barloworlders on the front, not a good sign. It is all CSC.

17:37 CEST   
Arnaud Gerard (Française des Jeux) attacks out of the bunch.

17:37 CEST   
He has some 50m as they approach the bell lap.

17:38 CEST    136.5km/6.5km to go
Gerard has barely five seconds as the bell rings.

17:39 CEST   
He tries to give it all and goes behind the TV moto, to get some extra draft. With the wind and the uphill it is impossible, though and he gets caught before the turnaround.

17:40 CEST    138km/5km to go
Next to go is another Française des Jeux rider, Philippe Gilbert. His left knee is bandaged, from his crash also involving Damiano Cunego (Lampre).

17:40 CEST   
Around the turn he has not much of a gap. A team-mate tries to break the rhythm, but to no avail.

17:40 CEST   
Gilbert is caught.

17:41 CEST    139.5km/3.5km to go
Rabobank takes over at the front.

17:41 CEST   
And another Cofidis attack, of course. Quick Step reacts.

17:41 CEST   
Quick Step sets up the train, as promised.

17:42 CEST   
The Cofidis rider is of course Chavanel. He has about 100m.

17:43 CEST   
Umpf, Jens Voigt was riding too fast for his saddle. It is gone! He sits on his cross bar.

17:43 CEST   
Down in to the tunnel now for the last time!

17:43 CEST    141.5km/1.5km to go
Chava is caught

17:44 CEST    142km/1km to go
Garmin is joining the train. One km to go!

17:44 CEST   
Place de la Concorde! Sprinters are set up!

17:44 CEST   
Steegmans goes! He has two length

17:44 CEST   
Quick Step has set it up great, but Ciolek is flying closer.

17:45 CEST   
Steegmans fights on as the finish line comes closer. But Ciolek is strong!

17:45 CEST   
Steegmans does it!

Ciolek second

17:46 CEST   
Freire third. Green keeps green!

17:47 CEST   
McEwen was up there, too, as was Haussler and Hushovd.

Sastre crosses the line and is immediately greeted by his children.

17:55 CEST   
Well, now everyone should be happy. Quick Step turned its Tour around. Sastre won the front end of the GC and Vansevenant the back end. Another beautiful day in Paris ensured that the riders will leave the 2008 Tour on a high note.

Freire win the green jersey, while Andy Schleck is in white and the next big hope for the young generation. Kohl takes the polka dot and hopes that Gerolsteiner's performance will be taken into account by potential sponsors.

And last but not least Cyclingnews had three winners in our jersey give-away contests. We hope you enjoyed the coverage of the 95th Tour de France. For those emailing us with good feedback and constructive criticism, thank you. We will now take a long break, probably like a week or so and will be back live from Spain.

The Clasica a San Sebastian will take place on Saturday, August 2.

Hasta la Vista!

Provisional results

1 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Step                              3.51.38 (37.04 km/h)
2 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Columbia                                   
3 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank                                   
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence - Lotto                                 
5 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                                  
6 Julian Dean (NZl) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30                      
7 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                
8 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                   
9 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone              
10 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld      

Final general classification
1 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC - Saxo Bank             87.52.52
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto                               0.58
3 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner                                1.13
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                    2.10
5 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30        3.05
6 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC - Saxo Bank                        4.28
7 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi               6.25
8 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia                                 6.55
9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne              7.12
10 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale                          9.05

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