The beginning of the end of this Tour was, as traditional, a gentle roll out, lots of photo opportunities and hearty congratulations all round. The Floyd looked very happy cruising along in the maillot jaune, chewing the fat with Pereiro, Zabriskie, Leipheimer, and his Phonak buddies.
The four jerseys get together for an odd little handshake. The sheer volume of pictures these guys had to pose for today…probably more than enough to crack any mortal.
All the jersey winners got their moment in the limelight – McEwen, winning the points competition again; Rasmussen, the polka dots; and Cunego who finally ousted Markus Fothen from the white jersey of best young rider.
Floyd got the party started early with this glass. You can be sure there were plenty more of those being tossed in this evening.
Axel Merckx led the peloton onto the Champs Elysees, before Viatcheslav Ekimov was given the honour of going up the road to salute the fans. Hard to believe, but this looks like the final Tour for Eki – he deserved the cheers he heard today, and more.
Well if that’s not a welcome sight for sore legs…
First attack of the day was from Walter Beneteau (Bouyges) and FDJ’s Carlos Da Cruz, with Jens Voigt (CSC) jumping on the back, before Phonak closed that party down.
A bigger group did emerge and take 30 seconds, as they went round with about 35kms to go – Wegmann, Voigt, Millar, Botcharov, Mengin, Popovych all present. There was plenty horsepower in this group, and they looked good hammering away with Phonak not too fussed about shutting them down.
Quite the scenery change from just three days ago when Floyd Landis was tearing up real estate all by his lonesome in the Alps.
Unfortunately for this break, they had two Davitamon-Lotto riders (Vansevanant and Horner) not working, and the peloton grabbed them 12kms from the finish.
Liquigas, FDJ, Credit Agricole, DVL and Cofidis were all keen to keep things together for the sprint. Hincapie and Popovych tried a double-team getaway move which got nowhere and the sprinters turned it up for the finish.
Hey hey hey – nothing like a little symmetry in a Tour de France defined by chaos: Thor Hushovd took both the first and final stages.
McEwen came from behind Wrolich, but he was on the front a little early and Hushovd came screaming past to snatch the prestige win on the Champs Elysees. Pretty good topping and tailing of the race from the big Norwegian, after taking the prologue, too.
There was a little split in the field, which saw Pereiro unintentionally cut back two seconds on Landis – but it didn’t matter. The Floyd is unquestionably THE MAN in Paris tonight.
The 2006 Tour de France final podium: Floyd Landis (1st), Oscar Pereiro (2nd), and Andreas Kloeden (3rd).
It’s been a pretty fantastic Tour – chaos, thrills, spills and maverick tactics aplenty. And we get a suitably maverick victor at the end of it – Chapeau, Floyd. Enjoy the party!
The only thing better than Robbie McEwen doing a wheelie? Doing it with Floyd Landis. Couldn’t someone have gotten Floyd to do a wheelie today?
T-Mobile was the strongest team in the 2006 Tour de France, but they’ll be asking some serious questions for many years to come as to how it was possible that they managed to fritter away what could have and should have been THEIR Tour after Floyd’s collapse.
Stage 20 Results
1. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Crйdit Agricole
2. Robbie McEwen (Aus), Davitamon-Lotto, s.t.
3. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), CSC, s.t.
4. Erik Zabel (G), Milram, s.t.
5. Luca Paolini (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, s.t.
6. Samuel Dumoulin (F), Ag2r Prevoyance, s.t.
7. Bernhard Eisel (A), Franзaise des Jeux, s.t.
8. Anthony Geslin (F), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
9. Alessandro Ballan (I), Lampre, s.t.
10. Peter Wrolich (A), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
Final Overall GC For The 2006 Tour De France
1. Floyd Landis (USA), Phonak
2. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne-I.B., 00:57
3. Andrйas Klцden (G), T-Mobile, at 1:29
4. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CSC, at 3:13
5. Cadel Evans (Aus), Davitamon-Lotto, at 5:08
6. Denis Menchov (Rus), Rabobank, at 7:06
7. Cyril Dessel (F), Ag2r Prevoyance, at 8:41
8. Christophe Moreau (F), Ag2r Prevoyance, at 9:37
9. Haimar Zubeldia (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 12:05
10. Michael Rogers (Aus), T-Mobile, at 15:07