Even as Chris Froome was on the point of celebrating his maiden win in the Tour de France on Sunday, fellow-Briton Mark Cavendish’s four-year reign on the Champs Elysées ended with a narrow defeat to Germany’s Marcel Kittel and André Griepel – Cavendish’s first ever failure to win on the final stage of the Tour.
In a stage held specially in the late evening as a way of celebrating the Tour’s centenary, Cavendish’s Omega-Pharma Quick Step did their utmost to keep the peloton under control to guide the British National Champion to a third stage victory in this year’s Tour.
But Kittel and Greipel were already ahead of Cavendish in the line of sprinters as the pack carved its way round the final left-hand bend on the Champs Elysées, and when Cavendish powered forward in the last 300 metres, poised for a 106th career win and 26th in the Tour, his two rivals showed no sign of fading.
Digging deep into his reserves, Cavendish was closing the gap on the two Germans as the line approached, but having left his effort a little late, it proved an impossible task to pass them. Instead Kittel celebrated his fourth stage win of the 2013 race, finishing off the Tour as he had started the first day at Corsica – with his arms aloft – while Cavendish, whose bike bounced dangerously when it struck a piece of rubbish close to the line, had to settle for third.
David Millar was the other Briton with a chance of success on the final laps of the Champs Elysées, sheering away alone with 40 kilometres to go. Racing in his usual highly elegant, poised style on the bike as he powered across the cobbles and tore around the Arc de Triomphe – which formed part of the finishing circuit for the first time ever – the Scot opened up a gap of 20 seconds.
However, as Kittel’s and Cavendish’s squads upped the pace in the pack, Millar was remorselessly reeled in and a bunch sprint at the end became inevitable.
Thus the Briton with the most to celebrate last night on the Champs Elysées, as the Arc de Triomphe was bathed in a yellow light show and five-times Tour winners Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Eddy Merckx joined him on the winner’s podium was once again the overall winner, Chris Froome.