Chris Froome (Sky) confirmed his victory in the 100th Tour de France on Sunday as Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) won the finale on the Champs-Élysées.
The traditional parade stage brought the peloton to Paris for a different sort of finale, a twilight tour of Paris that included 10 laps of the Champs-Élysées, this time turning around the Arc de Triomphe rather than in front of it.
Garmin-Sharp’s David Millar served an extended tour of duty off the front in the finale, but was pulled in well short of the line.
Next to go were Manuel Quinziato (BMC Racing), Bram Tankink (Belkin) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). They, too, were retrieved.
As the bell rang to signal the last lap Sky took charge, intent on protecting the race leader. But they had plenty of company for the last trip around the Arc, as the sprinters’ teams began to set up their trains.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step took the front in the final 2km, but they couldn’t hold it. Plenty of other riders hopped aboard that train, and in the end it was Kittel taking the narrowest of victories — his fourth — from André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma), who had hoped for a fifth consecutive triumph here.
“Four! I can’t believe it,” said Kittel. “It was a dream of mine to win on the Champs-Élysées and now I’ve done it. I’m so proud.
“I have to say a big, big thank you to everyone on my team. I started my sprint at 250 meters and pushed 1 million watts … and in the end, it was enough.”
Froome lost a bit of ground in the finale — he surrendered 53 seconds in the final kilometers, but still managed to finish with an advantage of 4:20 over runner-up Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and 5:04 over Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
“I’d like to dedicate this win to my late mother. I’m sure she’d be extremely proud if she was here tonight,” said Froome, who also praised his teammates, family, friends and fiancée for their support.
“It really has been a special edition of the Tour de France this year. Every day I woke up knowing I faced a fresh challenge … and I have to thank all my teammates for helping me achieve this dream. To win the 100th edition is an honor beyond any I’ve dreamed.”
Froome added: “This yellow jersey will stand the test of time.”
Quintana, who also collected the white jersey as best young rider and the polka-dot jersey of the mountains leader, was beaming on the podium. Like Froome, he was having a tough time believing what had occurred over the course of three weeks of racing.
“What a dream it is for me,” he said. “I’m wide awake, but I’m dreaming. It’s all a bit unreal.”
Rodriguez, meanwhile, was already looking ahead to his next grand tour.
“I think I proved once again my continuity,” he said. “It’s the third podium in a row in a grand tour [and] the fact I took it in the Tour de France after the troubles of the first week makes it even more special.
“Now I’ll get ready for the Vuelta a Espana. It won’t be easy — I will find some great riders, such as Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde and Ivan Basso. But our team is strong, and we’ll do our best to win the general classification.”
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) could only manage fourth on the Champs, but he collected the green points jersey for his troubles. Saxo-Tinkoff collected the team prize.
Editor’s note: Agence France Presse contributed to this report.