5 Things to know about the Tour de France Stage 21
PARIS (AP) Marcel Kittel outsprinted Alexander Kristoff on the avenue of the Champs-Elysees in the last stage, a 137.5-kilometer (85.4-mile) ceremonial procession from Evry to Paris, to tie overall leader Vincenzo Nibali for the most stage wins at this Tour de France with four.
Here are five things to know about the Tour on Sunday:
JOB DONE: Astana, the Kazakh team of Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali, has come a long way in the last five years, says the head of Kazakh Cycling.
Five years ago, Lance Armstrong was on the team. He was later exposed as a doping cheat. In 2010, Alberto Contador won the Tour, only to have his victory stripped over a positive doping test.
Kairat Kelimbetov, president of Kazakh Cycling and governor of the country’s central bank, said in a phone interview that it was a ”very challenging” task when he took over in 2010.
”From one side, the people’s expectation was that the Astana team should always win. But from the other, we understood that we had to form the team from the other principles. I think Astana was the first team which really came to clean the house and form on these principles.”
Kelimbetov said he had ”a big job in terms of how to change, how to follow all of these rules, how to really follow the fair play.”
Cycling has had sporadic difficulty finding team sponsors – in part because of its troubled past with doping. Kazakhstan perceives its national sponsorship as a way to make the sport popular among its people, and Kelimbetov says ”branding of the country through this team will be kind of a long-term project.”
He also defended the choice of Alexander Vinokourov, who was kicked out of the 2007 Tour after testing positive for blood doping, as Astana’s general manager.
”He knows very well this sport and understands the tactics and strategy in this sport,” Kelimbetov said. ”For us, he’s like a national hero.”
RECONCILING WITH THE MEDIA? The strong performances of German riders could be ”a big signal to the media in Germany,” final stage winner Marcel Kittel said.
He noted that seven German stage wins at this Tour was a record.
”It shows that German cycling is part of the top of the cycling world and that’s awesome,” Kittel said.
German broadcasters have shunned coverage of the Tour because of doping scandals, including one that involved Jan Ullrich in 2006.
EMPTY SKY: A year ago, Sky had a stellar Tour de France with three stage wins and Chris Froome bringing the yellow jersey back home. But the British team endured a rough campaign this time with no stage victory and no rider inside the top 15 in the final standings.
”It’s been a really long Tour for us,” Sky rider Richie Porte told the team’s website. ”The last two years we’ve ridden into Paris with the yellow jersey on our shoulders but this year’s been one big fight. We haven’t had any luck on our side during this race, and not much luck throughout the whole season actually, but maybe it’s the year we had to have.”
Froome was forced to withdraw from the race in the fifth stage because of a wrist injury.
The best Sky rider in the final standings was Mikel Nieve in 18th place, more than 46 minutes behind Nibali.
FRENCH REVIVAL: Two French riders finished on the podium for the first time since 1984 when Laurent Fignon outclassed Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond.
The performances of Jean-Christophe Peraud, second, and Thibaut Pinot, third, contributed to the local euphoria.
”That means French cycling has a future,” said Marc Guerreschi, a 55-year-old civil servant, who was watching on the Champs-Elysees avenue. ”Pinot is the future of French cycling … He has the potential to win it.”
WOMEN RACE: Women also took part on the Champs-Elysees a few hours before the men finished the last stage.
Olympic champion Marianne Vos sped past Kirsten Wild to win an 89-kilometer (55-mile) race in Paris simply called La Course, a one-day event.
”Biggest podium you can think of,” Vos said. ”A victory with a golden edge. I am very excited about today.”
Women used to compete in the Tour de France but the stage-race was discontinued after 2009 mostly because of financing problems.
Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this article.