by Roger Childs
Le Tour: Vingegaard Two in a Row
Unfortunately, I wasn’t too crash hot in the end, but I let it all out on the road and there’s no regrets from me.–Best Australian rider, Jai Hindley
The 21st and last stage of the Tour de France is the ride into Paris and eight laps of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It is a gentle start and traditionally the jersey winners drink a glass of champagne along the way.
In 2023 the winners of the various categories had been decided by the end of Stage 20 and they just had to stay on their bikes to the finish in Paris to take the prizes. They all succeeded in doing just that, and the overall winner Dane Jonas Vingegaard made it two in row.
Le Grand Départ was from Bilbao in the Basque country in northern Spain.
Most of the 21 stages were of course in France and for the first time the course left out the northern and southern regions of the country. From Aquitaine in the south-west the 150+ bike riders travelled across the centre of the country to the Alps in the east, and ultimately on to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. An estimated 10 million spectators watched from the road sides on mountains and plains, and in villages and cities along the 3405.6 km course.
Jonas Vingegaard won in 2022 and his great rival Slovenian Tadej Pogacar had triumphed in the two previous years. By half way through the 2023 race it was clear that one of the two would win again this year. At the start of the time trial in Stage 16 the Dane had a slender lead of 10 seconds. Riding last of the 22.4km course, Vingegaard stretched this advantage to 1.48 – still not enough to be confident of victory in Paris.
The following day, Pogacar cracked on the mountain stage allowing his rival in the yellow jersey to extend his advantage to a comfortable 7 minutes 29 seconds.
So the Dane is the general classification winner for 2023, however, as some consolation, Pogacar did win the white jersey competition for the best under 23 rider. The coveted green jersey for the best sprinter went to German Jasper Philipsen and Giulio Ciccore from Italy was King of the Mountains.
The 2024 Tour
In keeping with the tradition of starting the Tour outside of France it will be the Italian city of Firenze (Florence) hosting Le Grand Départ next year. For many of the Tour cyclists it is now on to Spain for the last of the three big European tours: the Vuelta a España.