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Tour de France - *Montereau-Fault-Yonne - Paris Champs-Elysées

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  1. 16:55 - The real star of the Tour, however, is Alberto Contador. He has proven himself quite simply the best rider in the world. The best climber, and the best time-triallist. Congratulations to him, and thank you to you for following our live comments here on eurosport.yahoo.com. We've hope you have enjoyed it.

  2. 16:50 - Well, that's it. Another year, another Tour over. It's been fun, as ever, though for British cycling it has been absolutely magnificent. We've discovered a new GC contender in Bradley Wiggins, and seen just how good Mark Cavendish is.

  3. 16:45 - Tyler Farrar was third, Gerlad Ciolek fourth, Yauheni Hutarovich fifth and Thor Hushovd sixth. But they were all a long, long way back.

  4. 16:43 - That's Cavendish's sixth stage win at this Tour. Incredible stuff from the Manxman. He already has ten stage wins in total to his name.

  5. 16:41 - In fact it's Renshaw who takes second - a one-two for Columbia in the final stage! An incredible team performance from them, and an incredible individual performance from Cavendish.

  6. 16:39 - 0km - It's Cavendish!!! By an absolute country mile!!! He has smashed everybody in the sprint!

  7. 16:39 - 0.4km - Renshaw takes Cavendish round the final right-hand bend at the Place de la Concorde! Perfect situation for Cavendish!

  8. 16:39 - 0.7km - Suddenly George Hincapuie hits the front for Columbia!! They're back in numbers!!!!

  9. 16:37 - 1km - Have Garmin taken it up too early? We're into the final kilometre now, with Cav, Freire, Hushovd and Haussler all well placed! Farrar's there too!

  10. 16:36 - 2km - Garmin hit the front now!! They are dominating at the moment with 2km to go!

  11. 16:35 - 3km - The Columbia train has gone to pieces!! Suddenly Tony Martin is the only man they have left.

  12. 16:34 - 4km - Interestingly, Liquigas' Daniele Bennati, the man who won here two years ago, is to the fore. Might he have a run at this?

  13. 16:33 - 5km - The breakaway has been swallowed now!

  14. 16:30 - 5.5km - Kim Kirchen now on the front for Columbia, while a Garmin rider makes a break on the right hand side, but the pace is simply too high for him to go clear!

  15. 16:30 - 6.5km - They take the bell with just one 6.5km lap to go!!!

  16. 16:29 - 7km - Coyot and Barredo have sat up now. They now the hope of the breakaway staying away is all but gone. Veikkanen, Wegmann and Beppu are out now on their own.

  17. 16:29 - 8km - Mick Rogers has a rear wheel puncture! Right at the wrong moment!! He won't be able to get back into the pack any more.

  18. 16:27 - 10km - Suddenly the Milram train comes to the front alongside Columbia. So far they haven't been able to rival the American squad, though they will certainly have another crack today.

  19. 16:26 - 10km - Right, we're into the final 10 km, so let's have your suggestions below for a stage winner. A solo break from Cancellara or Ignatiev? Cav or Farrar in the sprint?

  20. 16:24 - 12km - Bernhard Eisel hits the front for Columbia now, and the peloton have the breakaway firmly in their sights.

  21. 16:22 - 15km - The gap is down to 19 seconds now. Columbia perhaps are wary of bringing the breakaway in too early, as that opens up the possibility of further attacks.

  22. 16:19 - 16km - Thor Hushovd has postioned himself firmly in the wheel of Mark Cavendish. All he has to do it stay there, and the green jersey is his. Heinrich Haussler, Hushovd's team-mate, is in there towards the front too.

  23. 16:17 - 18km - Michael Rogers and Bert Grabsch are slowly bringing these seven escapees back in. Those two have four world time-trial championship wins between them.

  24. 16:14 - 21km - Just over three laps to go now, as Columbia bring the gap down to 27 seconds.

  25. 16:12 - 23km - A couple of questions about the points jersey, the only one of the jerseys that could still realistically change hands. Cavendish would have to win the stage, with Thor Hushovd outside of the top 20 for the Manxman to win it back. In short, very unlikely.

  26. 16:10 - 24km - Cofidis' David Moncoutié is hanging on right at the back of the peloton. He looks to be suffering with the pace. His charge at the polka dot jersey never materialised.

  27. 16:07 - 26km - Katusha's Mikhail Ignatiev has tried to bridge the gap across to the break, and now one of the Lampre boys is trying, it looks like Marcin Sapa. To be fair, it's a unenviable task. Very, very difficult to ride across with no help and chase down a breakaway who themselves are going flat out.

  28. 16:03 - 29km - Columbia continue to work away on the front of the peloton as the seven breakaway riders give their all. 37 seconds is the latest split, though to be fair that's not a huge amount with 29 kilometres to go.

  29. 15:55 - 37km - Columbia are content to keep the breakaway at arm's length at the moment. The other sprinters' teams are happy to let the American squad do the early work. Anything that could sap their strength before the final few kilometres.

  30. 15:50 - 42km - The breakaway are gradually extending their lead. It's out to 20 seconds at the moment.

  31. 15:46 - 45km - The composition of our lead group is: Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Alexandere Pichot (BBox Bouygues), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Arnaud Coyot (Caisse d'Epargne), Fabian Wegmann (Milram), Jussi Veikkanen (FdJ) and Fumiyuki Beppu (Skil-Shimano).

  32. 15:42 - 48km - Astana are still at the head of the peloton now. They will stay there for a while, before making way for the likes of Milram, Columbia-HTC and Garmin.

  33. 15:41 - 49km - Quick Step's Carlos Barredo, Milram's Fabian Wegmann as well as a rider from Bouygues, Cofidis, FdJ and Skil-Shimano are in the break too now.

  34. 15:40 - 52km - The first attack comes, and no suprise, it's from Agritubel! It looks like Sylvain Calzati!

  35. 15:40 - 53km - Big Gregory Rast is on the front for Astana now. Hearts will be beating a little faster and the hair will be standing on the backs of everybody's necks now.

  36. 15:40 - 53km - The peloton hit the Rue de Rivoli now and are on the final circuit.

  37. 15:35 - 57km - In response to manmadha_guduru's question below (post 85): Saxo Bank, or anyone else for that matter, would make enemies of pretty much everybody else in the peloton. In the unlikely event that a large number of their riders were actually able to move clear, the likes of Columbia, Garmin and Astana would give their all collectively to bring them back in. They would also be seen in very negative light by the other teams after the Tour, which let's not forget is just one race in a whole calendar of races throughout the year. Having friends in the peloton is very, very important.

  38. 15:30 - 59km - Cervelo, Silence, Liquigas, Garmin are the four teams arriving with all nine riders still intact. In fact Liquigas were one of the very few teams to also arrive at the finish of the TTT in stage 4 with all nine riders in their train.

  39. 15:25 - 62km - We have now arrived in Paris, and in just ten kilometres time, we will be onto the final circuit, which the riders will take eight times. Fantastic crowds packing the roadside once again. That has been the case on practically every stage, perhaps boosted by the lack of scandals and negative headlines.

  40. 15:20 - 65km - Alberto Contador is sat happy in yellow at the back of his Astana train, on his rather snazzy black and yellow bike. Fabian Cancellara is on his wheel, followed by the rest of the Saxo Bank team.

  41. 15:15 - 70km - The Astana team have moved to the front of the peloton now to ease the pace along a little more. Not quite so much joking around and high jinks in the peloton now, though they are still far from flat out.

  42. 15:10 - 73km - Sunderland on the Sky team that is currently taking shape: "If you believe the press, then we have 150 riders in the team! No, seriously, September 1st is the first date we can announce any riders, but it's really promising. The British riders we have are fantastic, and we will have close to 50% British riders in the team. We've looked at the British lads we have, and we then look for the international riders to complement them."

  43. 15:05 - 76km - Scott Sunderland, the sporting director of the Sky team that will be making its debut next year, and a good friend of Cadel Evans on the problems at Silence-Lotto: "They have got a problem, and it's communication. I have some contact with Cadel and [Philippe] Gilbert and one of the sporting directors, and they need to get everybody sitting at the table and get some priorities sorted of who's doing what. Cadel needs to get his mind straight on who he wants out here helping him. And that needs to happen soon, or they will continue to suffer."

  44. 15:00 - 79km - David Millar is just dropping back to the team car to have a word with Matt White. Not a lot to say other than that at the moment.

  45. 14:55 - 82km - The pace has increased every so slightly, but it will be in the final 53 kilometres that the racing will really hot up.

  46. 14:50 - 85km - Blazing sunshine today in the département of the Ile-de-France. Perfect weather for riding, which is a welcome change from the rain that came down in the French capital yesterday.

  47. 14:45 - 89km - Denis Menchov is trundling alonf next to Pippo Pozzatto right now. It's been a very disappointing Tour for the big Russian, and one which confirms my personal scepticism about whether it's really possible to win both in one year nowadays. The last man to do it was Marco Pantani in 1998.

  48. 14:40 - 93km - Alberto Contador is tying a Spanish flag around his neck at the moment, a big grin on his face. A lot of people have been impressed about the way he has carried himself in this year's race. He may have been annoyed at the whole situation regarding his team and some of the questions put to him, but he has never put a word out of place and never snapped at anybody. He reminds a little of his compatriot Rafa Nadal in terms of his character.

  49. 14:35 - 95km - Still a leisurely pace in the peloton at the moment, a few of the riders grabbing a bite to eat. They may not be going hell for leather yet, but the last thing they'll want is to be short of energy when they thunder up and down the Champs-Elysees at upwards of 50km/h.

  50. 14:30 - 98km - Alberto Contador's thoughts on this year's race: "Well, I'm feeling total satisfaction after all the hard work. We're very happy. After everything we've suffered and battled through, we're happy. I couldnÂ’t really pick out one definite moment [as my favourite]. When I saw everything was working out for me was in Verbier. That was when I was happiest. In 2007 it was unexpected, and something new, whereas this time I had greater expectations. There was certainly more pressure on me, and I think that was the main difference."

  51. 14:25 - 101km - We have mentioned a few of the favourite moments of the Tour from the riders, but what are your thoughts on your favourite moments? Maybe Brice Feillu's mountain-top win? Cav's sprints? Contador's solo charge up Verbier? Suggestions below...

  52. 14:20 - 103km - Meanwhile, the current Luxembourg champion Andy Schleck told us before the stage: "Well, we're happy. We had a glass of red wine with the team last night. It was very chilled out. In the three weeks we've had some sad moments with the crashes of Kurt and Jens, but also some great moments. Now it's finishing I'm almost a little sad its finally over. It's like the break up of a big family. You'll kind of miss it. The best moment for me in the Tour was when Frank won the stage [in Le-Grand-Bornand] and I confirmed my second position."

  53. 14:15 - 106km - A conversation between former Luxembourg champions Kim Kirchen and Frank Schleck towards the back of the peloton.

  54. 14:10 - 110km - In response to L's question, it would be nigh-on impossible for Wiggins to make up 37 seconds on Lance Armstrong. For one thing, the second Wiggins would try to attack, the entire Astana team would gather at the front of the peloton and reel him back in with all their might. It's a kind of unwritten rule that you don't attack GC positions on the final stage, enforced by the fact that it would be almost impossible anyway.

  55. 14:10 - 110km - Another question from L: "WHY does everyone say there will be no changes in the­ GC today? It HAS happened in the past (between #1 and­ #2 even), so WHY couldn't Wiggins, for example,­ give a shot at making it to #3. I know he's­ slipped a bit, but he's still only 37 seconds behind. And­ F. Schleck is only 3 seconds back from Wiggins..."

  56. 14:05 - 113km - Yes, thanks to those below who spotted my gaffe in writing Tyler Hamilton rather than Farrar. However, may I point you in the general direction of my prediction below, jsut to prove I'm not a total buffoon. Obviously Contador wasn't difficult to pick as a winner, though I did get rather slated for picking Andy Schleck as his nearest rival. Click here

  57. 14:00 - 118km - Freddy Bee, meanwhile, asks: "What chance of Wiggins clipping off on the Champs Elysees­ for a stage win? Come on Wiggo! Dig 'em in Cav!" It's certainly not impossible for the likes of Wiggins or Cancellara to have a dig at a stage win, though Tyler Farrar would perhaps be counting on Wiggins for a lead-out. Cancellara, with no sprinters in his team, has a far better chance, as would perhaps Ignatiev, O'Grady or Haussler.

  58. 13:55 - Geoff has a question below on Lance Armstrong's bike. I should point out that Damien Hirst designed the colour scheme, rather than letting him loose on the aerodynamics of the frame and all that sort of thing. Might be interesting to see what artists would produce were they allowed to design the shape of the frame too. Something barely rideable is the likely answer.

  59. 13:50 - 125km - Interestingly, the entire Garmin team are all in their skinsuits today. A slightly strange one, as they are far from comfortable, though perhaps they are looking to give themselves every possible advantage to launch Tyler Hamilton for the sprint.

  60. 13:45 - 128km - Cavendish is chatting away happily with Armstrong right now. Still nothing doing in terms of action.

  61. 13:40 - 131km - Frank Schleck, ahead of the stage: "I tried again [to drop Lance Armstrong] yesterday but he's very hard to distance as he's got a lot of exprience. I'm happy, and have no regrets. Next year's goal is for both of us to finish on the podium."

  62. 13:35 - 134km - Well, we've heard what Lance Armstrong's plans are for next year, though what of Alberto Contador? It's difficult to see him hanging around Astana next year, especially with Vino set to return, so what to you think the Spaniard should do? He has been linked with Garmin, though perhaps a move to Caisse d'Epargne would be more likely. Or maybe even surprise everyone by joining Armstrong at Radioshack for a fresh round of speculation and controversy? Mails to pdavis@eurosport.com.

  63. 13:30 - 136km - Garmin sporting director Lionel Marie: "If someone had told us we'd have a rider in fourth place we'd have certainly taken that. We have discovered that Bradley Wiggins can play some big cards out there. I think [focussing on becoming a GC contender] is in his mind. I think we will see him up front in some major tours in future. For me he's a potential winner of tours like the Tour of Switzerland. Finally he has realised that he has got this potential, and it can be achieved by giving priority to road cycling."

  64. 13:25 - 139km - Here were Fabian Cancellara's thoughts on his best memories of this year's Tour: "My days in yellow of course, but also the whole Tour, because when you look at the people on the roads and the size of the crowds, I think it's getting bigger every year. That's what we need. It was a big tour without negatives, and we need that."

  65. 13:20 - 143km - The two Japanese riders are riding along next to eachother in the peloton. Fumiyuki Beppu of Skil-Shimano and Yukiya Arashiro of BBox Bouygues Telecom will become the first Japanese riders ever to finish the Tour de France.

  66. 13:15 - 146km - The only members of this field who have won on the Champs-Elysées in the past are Daniele Bennati (2007) and Thor Hushovd (2006), though Bennati is certainly not in anything like the form that he was two years ago. Tom Boonen has also won on the final stage, though he of course is no longer in the race.

  67. 13:10 - 149km - Still not much happening in the peloton at the moment. I am genuinely loathed to bring you doping-related news, as we have been blessed with a scandal-free Tour, though it has been announced that a batch of urine and blood tests taken at last year's tour will be tested again now using the latest techniques. Quite why this had to be announced today is beyond me, but there you go.

  68. 13:05 - 151km - Lance Armstrong is riding a Trek bike designed by the artist Damian Hirst today. It's a white affair with various colourful shapes dotted about all over it. Nice.

  69. 13:00 - 153km - Given the strength of the Columbia-HTC leadout team, it's a little difficult to imagine anything other than a sprint finish today. There is always a succession of attacks on the last few laps of the Champs-Elysées, though the only person in the last few years who managed to suprise the sprinters and win solo was Alexandre Vinokourov.

  70. 12:55 - 155km - A very slow pace at the moment, quite predictably. Fabian Cancellara even has his digital camera out and is taking pictures and videos.

  71. 12:50 - 157km - The one classification that I failed to mention earlier was the team classification. That has changed hands a few times throughout the race, though since stage 15 it has been Astana who have been top of the pile. Second are Garmin-Slipstream - an incrediable achievement for a team packed with time-trial specialists - though they have proved themselves far more than just that.

  72. 12:45 - 159km - Thor Hushovd is riding along chatting next to Lance Armstrong at the moment. Having announced he will be riding for Radioshack next year, perhaps the American will use today to suggest to a few people that they might like to join him on his new team? Just a thought.

  73. 12:40 - 161km - As ever, it's a very, very leisurely start to the stage. Riders chatting, joking around, savouring the atmosphere on this very special day.

  74. 12:35 - 164km - The four jersey wearers pose for the photographers, beaming smiles on their faces. After so many questions and media attention about the the leadership of the Astana team, Alberto Contador will be perhaps the most relieved, and delighted to have proved himself. With two yellow jerseys in his wardrobe at the age of just 26, the question is how many he will be able to rack up by the end of his career. Can he join Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain on 5? Or should he be gunning for even more than that? Mails to pdavis@eurosport.com

  75. 12:35 - 164km - The official start has just been given, and we are underway on the final stage of the Tour, something that will be music to the ears of all of the field. By the end of today's stage, they will have covered 3445 kilometres over 21 days, with just two rest days to recharge the batteries.

  76. 12:30 - The green sprinters' jersey is the only one that is not yet decided. Cervelo's Thor Hushovd is currently in green, with only Mark Cavendish of Columbia capable of taking it off him. 25 points separate the pair, meaning that Hushovd would have to have something of a disaster at the finish for it to change hands.

  77. 12:30 - The white jersey is the property of Andy Schleck. Second on the GC, the younger of the brothers from Luxembourg has a huge future ahead of him, and it is surely only a matter of time before he swaps white for yellow. Time-trialling is his weakness, though if he can make the sort of gains in this discipline that we have seen from Alberto Contador, then we could have a mouth-watering rivalry between the pair in years to come.

  78. 12:30 - The polkadot jersey has been won by Franco Pellizotti for the first time. The Italian has managed to maintain his form impressively after a strong ride in the Giro d'Italia this year, and fended off a strong challenge from Euskaltel's Egoi Martinez in the mountains.

  79. 12:25 - Astana's Alberto Contador will be crowned Tour de France winner for the second time at the end of the stage. His first yellow jersey came two years ago.

  80. 12:20 - The general classification was settled yesterday, and barring any major mishaps today, will stay exactly the same.

  81. 12:10 - Today's stage takes us 164 kilometres from Montereau-Fault-Yonne to Paris, where we finish as usual with eight laps of the Champs-Elysées and Rue de Rivoli.

  82. 12:00 - Welcome to eurosport.yahoo.com's live text comments of stage 21, the final stage of this year's Tour de France.

 

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