Cycling: Tour Street party in full swing on the mad mile

Adam Szreter jostles for position in the Champs-Elysees and gets caught up in the hysteria as the world's most famous cycling race reaches its climax
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The Independent Online
Just after midday the Champs-Elysees is alive with music, flags, banners and all the colours of the rainbow. ``Allez Vasseur,'' say the French, clinging to the memory of their young hero's five days in the yellow jersey; the Germans are here to, with miniature national flags painted on one cheek and ``Jan'' inscribed on the other, happily awaiting the arrival of Jan Ullrich, the first German winner of the Tour de France.

There are Danish fans everywhere. They have no chance of celebrating victory as they did last year, but they are here anyway - 200,000 of the country's five million people have seen some part of the Tour and it seems like half of them have made it to Paris.

Walking down the most famous boulevard in France is getting difficult by about 2.30pm and the riders are not expected for another two hours. By now the show is in full swing, the fleets of sponsored cars, floats of all kinds and loonies riding Mobilettes stuck inside giant tyres that just roll on down the road turning bike and rider round and round as they go.

Across the street from the chaotic television and radio centre right by the finishing line, the Parisian Bourgeoisie have turned out in style to populate the Tribune Clemenceau, while the not-so-very-rich line the pavements 10 deep. You can tell the cyclists are getting close to Paris as the man on the PA has not stopped for the past 45 minutes. The first few bars of ``Satisfaction'' suddenly boom out loud enough to break your eardrums and for a moment the whole street seems about to start dancing, but then the Stones are cut short, and it's time for a touch of accordion before a big band version of YMCA by the Village People, as the clock ticks round to 4pm.

By a quarter past the music is over and the PA man has the stage to himself, broadcasting to the whole magnificent mile from the Arc de Triomphe down to the Place de la Concorde. Then there is silence, the road is empty and even the PA has shut up. A few cheers, then more as four motorcycles fly by and the leaders have arrived. The PA starts going nuts again and, after what seems an eternity, the peloton - the rest of the riders - whiz past with cameramen, equipment cars, police and all the other paraphernalia following on behind.

They have come to do 10 laps of the circuit up and down the Champs-Elysees, and by the time they go round for a second time there is only polite applause as everyone paces themselves for the grand finale. But back at the television stand the Eurosport commentator is going 10-to-the-dozen as he has for most of the past three weeks. You get the impression that a long lie down in a dark room is next on the agenda for him.

I finally manage to pick out Ullrich in the leader's yellow jersey, as opposed to all the other yellow jerseys, but with six laps to go I'm ejected from Position A, just beyond the finish line, as the French security system finally blows a fuse. Strangely, Position B turns out to be even closer to the finishing line.

As each lap goes by, the applause grows louder with the biggest cheer reserved for Frenchman Richard Virenque and his Festina, who lead the peleton in military formation until Ullrich and his Deutsch Telekom Team take over a lap from the end in, it has to be said, rather putrid pink jerseys.

The final sprint for the line brings everyone to their feet, while the photographers start rushing back to where the cyclists have just come from to gather in front of the podium. Ullrich is cheered, Zabel, the points leader, follows, but Virenque, the king of the mountains, steals the show. The party goes on for quite some time until ``We are the Champions'' starts blurting out and then you know it's time to go home. The end of a beautiful day on the Champs-Elysees.

TOUR DE FRANCE DETAILS

LEADING FINAL OVERALL STANDINGS

1 J Ullrich (Ger) Telekom

100hr 30min 35sec

2 R Virenque (Fr) Festina +9min 09sec

3 M Pantani (It) Mercatone Uno +14:03

4 A Olano (Sp) Banesto +15:55

5 F Escartin (Sp) Kelme +20:32

6 F Casagrande (It) Saeco +22:47

7 B Riis (Den) Telekom +26:34

8 J Jimenez (Sp) Banesto +31:17

9 L Dufaux (Swit) Festina +31:55

10 R Conti (It) Mercatone Uno +32:26

11 B Zberg (Swit) Mercatone Uno +35:4

12 O Camenzind (Swit) Mapei +35:52

13 P Luttenberger (Aut) Rabobank +45:39

14 M Beltran (Sp) Banesto +49:34

15 J-C Robin (Fr) US Postal +58:35

16 M Boogerd (Neth) Rabobank +1hr 00min 33sec

17 B Julich (US) US Postal +1:01:10

18 D Nardello (It) Mapei +1:01:30

19 C Moreau (Fr) Festina +1:02:48

20 S Heulot (Fr) La Francaise des Jeux +1:06:13

Four to follow: 2 Virenque; 5 Olano; 7 Riis; 44 L Jalabert +1:55:12. Selected: 67 M Sciandri (GB) La Francaise des Jeux +2:24:24.

Points standings

1 E Zabel (Ger) Telekom 350pts

2 F Moncassin (Fr) GAN 223

3 M Traversoni (It) Mercatone Uno 198

4 J Blijlevens (Neth) TVM 192

5 N Minali (Fr) Batik 156

6 Ullrich 154

7 R McEwen (Aus) Rabobank 152

8 Virenque 151

9 F Simon (Fr) GAN 145

10 A Baffi (It) US Postal Service 131.

King of the Mountains

1 Virenque 579pts

2 Ullrich 328

3 Casagrande 309

4 Pantani 269

5 L Brochard (Fr) Festina 241

6 Dufaux 212

7 P Herve (Fr) Festina 176

8 Escartin 141

9 Riis 139

10 Jimenez 136

YESTERDAY

21st stage, Disneyland to Paris (149.5km): 1 Minali 3hr 54min 36sec; 2 Zabe; 3 H Vogels (Aus) GAN; 4 Blijlevens; 5 G Hincapie (US) US Postal; 6 McEwen; 7 L Aus (Est) Casino; 8 N Loda (It) MG Technogym; 9 P Gaumont (Fr) Cofidis; 10 R Sorensen (Den) Rabobank; 11 Traversoni; 12 Moncassin ; 13 Baffi; 14 O Rodrigues (Por) Banesto; 15 Sciandri; 16 L Jalabert; 17 M Tosatto (It) MG Technogym; 18 G Fagnini (It) Saeco; 19 T Gouvenou (Fr) Big Mat; 20 Simon all s/t. Four to follow: 16 L Jalabert; 32 Virenque; 34 Olano; 71 Riis all s/t.

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