PhotJonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) wrapped up a second Tour de France title as a weary peloton arrived into Paris – but the big talking point on the final day was Jordi Meeus (Bora-hansgrohe) denying Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) a fifth victory with a shock sprint win on the Champs-Elysees.
Meeus, who got the nod over Sam Bennett for the Tour, had been hardly spotted in the sprints amid Philipsen’s domination, but he chose the perfect moment to come good as he edged a four-up finish.
It was a stage of two halves, beginning with the traditional roll-out from the outskirts of the French capital, the official start taking place at the velodrome of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. The track will next year host the indoor cycling events of the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny), who had been named the supercombative rider of this year’s Tour, launched an early mock attack, tucking into a time trial pose and getting himself a sizeable gap over the bunch, before easing off and sitting up. The 150 remaining riders proceeded to meander into town in cruisey fashion, taking almost two hours to cover the first 50km ahead of the Parisien arrival. Photoshoots were conducted with the four winners of the different classifications, as well as maillot jaune Jonas Vingegaard and his Jumbo Visma team-mates.
Wearing the maillot a poids, the King of the Mountains Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) was allowed to take one final point atop the only category 4 classified climb of the day. His team-mate Mads Pedersen made a show of leading the Italian out, before celebrating victory from a fight that went down to Saturday’s final mountainous day in the Vosges.
A sedate approach to Paris was followed by a lively final hour, which all kicked off when Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) launched off the front with 48km remaining. Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma) was dispatched to join him, but sadly for the Slovenian, and the watching fans, his Dutch rival was not prepared to contribute to the charge – even though Pogacar was never going to overturn a 7’29” deficit on Van Hooydonck’s team-mate Vingegaard in the race for yellow.
While Pogacar plugged an incredible tempo, at one stage building a 15-second gap, it never looked like sticking as the sprint teams hovered menacingly towards the front of the peloton. Eventually they were caught and after other attacks had been and gone, it all came back together for the final of eight laps in the French capital.
Philipsen looked primed for win No. 5 when he sat on team-mate Mathieu van der Poel’s wheel on the final straight. After Van der Poel moved aside, Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco AlUla) was first to launch his sprint, allowing Philipsen a few more precious seconds of slipstream. Philipsen moved round the Dutchman at what appeared to be the perfect moment, but he had not reckoned for the movement of the unfancied Jordi Meeus. On the final straight Meeus, set up by Bora team-mate Marco Haller, moved into position and surfed wheels to the front, before maneuvering himself to the left of Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) and making an immaculate bike throw at the last possible second.
Four riders were within fifteen centimentres but the win was between Meeus and Philipsen, with Groenewegen and Pedersen visibly out of it. The photo finish confirmed that the Bora man had claimed the unlikeliest of victories on the most prestigious of days.
“I knew in previous sprints this was more possible than the results I’ve showed so far,” said Meeus, after the biggest win of his career. “Today everything went perfect… I had the wheel of Pedersen and came out of the slipstream, and I could catch it on the line. To take the win today is an indescribable feeling.”
Groenewegen was awarded third place, with Pedersen fourth and Mark Cavendish’s team-mate Cees Bol (Astana) rounding out the first five.
Jonas Vingegaard crossed the line in the company of his Jumbo Visma team-mates. Never before has the Tour de France seen the same top two overall for three consecutive editions. Tadej Pogacar won the young rider competition for the fourth Tour de France in a row.
“Today, with all the spectators, all the Danish people here, was really amazing.” Vingegaard said, after securing his second Tour de France title. “I have to thank the whole of Denmark… I hope to come back next year to see if I can take the third win.”