Good afternoon and welcome to the final stage in the Tour de France 2002. For the majority of the 153 starters this morning the race will be a parade into Paris but for two men the race still very much on.
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McEwen has 239 points - Zabel is one point behind. Today's bonus sprints are worth 6, 4, and 2 points - but the finish carries 35, 30 and 25 points - so regardless of the intermediate sprints the last sprint in Paris could be decisive.
McEwen confessed to feeling nervous about today's stage - but is confident he can finally grasp the green jersey from the German legend.
Meanwhile the riders are enjoying beautiful weather, clear blue skies and warm sunshine ideal racing weather.
Jalabert is riding into Paris on a special polka dot Look bike - he is sure to get a hero's welcome in Paris.
In this morning's L'Equipe interview he stressed his sympathy to the family of the child who was tragically killed - it is a mark of the man that he should use that opportunity to express his condolences.
The peloton is still in relaxed mode crusing towards Paris - the riders are chatting amongst themselves with no particular team at the front of the race.
7km for the first intermediate sprint. McEwen next to Weseman in Zabels' wheel. No nervousness at all.
The teammates of McEwen and Zabel are getting to the front with their helmets on.
Just to confirm the points available for the final sprint in Paris Flat stages: 25 places: 35, 30, 26, 24, 22, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 are the points available.
And today's two intermediate sprints carry points for the first three - Intermediate Sprints: 3 places: 6, 4, 2
A unique view we have here as Armstrong is at the back of the peloton, but I'm sure it won't take too long for him to get back to the front. Lance Armstrong in yellow, he'll probably be quite relaxed today after winning yesterday's time trial and confirming he's the best.
As the Postals did last year at the beginning of the last stage in the Tour, Armstrong and co. were making a toast to his fourth consecutive Tour victory with a nice glass of champagne 15 km after the start this afternoon.
The Telekom team pick up the pace at the front of the peloton - and the pace gradually winds up the peloton.
But McEwen steals on the right hand side to take 6 points - first blow for Australia!
The Lotto-rider in McEwen's wheel tried to avoid Zabel getting in McEwen's wheel, good strategy from the team mate. Zabel only just managed to cross the Lotto (might have been Mikhailov) - yes, Mikhailov.
Clever sprint from McEwen - he attacked early and surprised the Telekom lead out - Zabel does not look a happy man as they slow down after that burst of speed - McEwan 6points, Zabel 4 points, Mikhailov two points.
The plan of taking the points for Zabel will probably be repeated and it's interesting to see what Telekom will do to prevent that. It's obvious that McEwen is faster, but I bet Zabel will battle to the bitter end. You never know that McEwen has a flat in the final km's or that he loses some seconds. Zabel definitely needs to be very attentive now.
It must give McEwen a psychological advantage - but now the peloton slows down again and returns to holiday mode.
Now Jalabert, the polka dot man and bike - is chatting to his former teamcar, the ONCE.
So the points competition now stands like this:
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto 245 pts
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom 242
3 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole 188
4 Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com 168
5 Jan Svorada (Cze) Lampre 136
So three Australians in the top five of the competition - Australia is certainly a cycling nation - Evans winning the Commonwealth games Time Trial yesterday - however McEwen pointed out yesterday that Britain has the best Tour record: "One competitor, one victory - David Millar."
Millar said yesterday, "I'm happy with the way that my Tour has gone. I had a few rough days but I feel good and fresh now." His next target is the Vuelta in September and the World Time Trial Championship in October.
The peloton back in relaxed mode; it is Richard Virenque who takes a turn at the front - he was asked this morning about when he might retire - and he suggested that he is hoping to compete until 2004...
Zabel and Armstrong seen chatting together in the peloton - then surprisingly the Postal boys pick up the pace at the front of the peloton - the blue rockets lead the peloton in a long blue line - are they working for Zabel - while Beloki punctures his teammates drop back to help him back into the peloton.
They passed the Velodrome where the Tour finished in the time of Merckx. It is a tradition that the team of the yellow jersey gets up front to enter first in Paris to receive all the applause.
It is the French who pick up the pace - Jalabert, Virenque, but the Postal take over the lead. Roberto Heras, Floyd Landis and Benoit Joachim were the first three across the line for points.
McEwen is in the middle of the peloton and Zabel in his wheel.
The peloton is entering Paris now and the second sprint is on its way. A ceremonial ride for the US Postal team - as they lead the yellow jersey.
Millar has punctured but he gets back onto the peloton - the Postal still lead the peloton.
If Zabel finishes 1st and McEwen second, McEwen would have lost his green jersey. It seems as if the two have decided not to sprint. It doesn't matter that much actually as they would have sprinted for 1st and 2nd, with only 2 points difference so in the end, it still needs to be battled at the finish, no matter what the results in that intermediate sprint.
Yes, Zabel must beat McEwen by three points in the final sprint to win the Green jersey. So to sum up - the Postal took all the intermediate points on the second sprint - it is down to a Grand Finale on the last sprint to decide who will win the green jersey.
To keep the green jersey Zabel must beat McEwen by four points.
Walter Godefroot: Normally McEwen will win this green jersey as he has shown that he's faster, that's it. Zabel has had a tough year and maybe he's a bit tired. I'm just being realistic.
Now a breakaway gains a 12 second gap on the peloton but José Vicente Garcia Acosta has crashed in the peloton.
They have 6 seconds, but the Lampres are chasing. Nico Mattan in the break. The peloton is all stretched out in one big line.
The breakaway's lead is now down to ten seconds, they will be caught. Two men are now off the front Cristian Moreni and 114 Sylvain Chavanel. Attacks are raining, 7 laps to go.
Moreni and Chavanel are a few seconds off the front of the bunch - it will be a miracle if they can keep away from the speeding peloton.
But they are giving their teams TV exposure worldwide, from Paris to China!
Sylvain Chavanel has punctured - his hand goes up - yes, China is having live coverage for the first time this year.
Cristian Moreni ploughs his lonely furrow at the front - well as lonely as you can be with the population of Paris and the rest of the world, including China, watching you...
Lampre still lead the peloton while Moreni, who rode for Mercatone Uno last year, still hangs on to the lead.
Now Tafi, Jalabert, Millar form at the front. It is a classic group of riders who could stay clear; Tafi powers ahead, he is burying himself at the front of the group.
6 laps to go. Moreni has about 200 meters on a small group of chasers as pod mentioned already. Bram De Groot is having some bad luck as he got a paper bag in his wheel.
Mauro Radaeli is also in the leading group - that bunch may have enough class to stay clear of the speeding peloton.
Millar, Jalabert (Jaja polkadot), Tafi, Moreni, Radaeli power on ahead of the peloton.
It might be a good bunch in the breakaway but they have been pushing it very hard for over 1 lap and they haven't gained much time. Doubt if the peloton will chase like sometimes happens in other stages. It will be difficult. "Merci JaJa" is written on Jalabert's bike.
Even Jaja's glasses are polka dot - the front group are working very well together - there are 12 riders chasing them down, and then the peloton.
The peloton breaks into little pieces...
Moreni now - he has tried several times in this Tour to get away - this is helping the cause of McEwen - the gap is up to 40 seconds.
The 12 will catch the five - and Rumsas is in that group - which is why the ONCE are chasing the 17 escapees down.
Mauro Radaeli has punctured - bad luck for him - amazing to see a man in the top three attack on the Champs Elysees!!
The peloton now one long thin line, the ONCE chasing down - surely Beloki will not lose his second spot at such a late stage. As ONCE is chasing this will help the sprinters. They definitely want to catch the leaders again in order to save Beloki's 2nd place in this Tour. Telekom is also helping the chase, together with ONCE.
If the leaders will come together some might stop working as they see Rumsas. They will know it's probably futile but nothing is sure yet...
Baguet and Wauters are the Belgians in the break. Boogerd and Dekker the Dutch riders...
The gap is now coming down - the original 5 riders will not be happy that Rumsas joined them - it has stirred up the ONCE and Telekom to start the chase. Rumsas, Boogerd, Wauters, Baguet, Piil, Casar, Horillo are some of the chasers.
Oscar Camenzind has just won in Sachsen.
The peloton is chasing hard, they are getting closer to the breakaways. As mentioned before, the break is doomed. 4 laps to go of each 6.5 kms. They have about 100 meters on the peloton.
They are slowing down a bit but they haven't caught them yet. It might be that Rumsas dropped back to the peloton so the others have more of a chance now. He understood he didn't belong there.
Now it's just Telekom leading the bunch...
So the lead group now is Jakob Piil (CSC), Marco Velo (Fassa Bortolo), Marc Wauters and Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Pedro Horillo (Mapei-Quick Step), Andrea Tafi (Mapei-Quick Step), Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour), Andrea Brognara, Cristian Moreni (Alessio). Rumsas is gone.
Lotto doesn't chase so far, but Telekom does. Zabel might have been feeling he's going to lose here, but he will go down fighting. He is still fighting of course, otherwise he wouldn't put his team mates up front.
The escapees have 18 seconds on the peloton; the race is still on after over 2000 miles of racing - the 153 riders are putting on a great show for the Parisiens in the sunshine.
3 laps to go...
Dekker and Wauters working well together in the escapees - Velo seems to hiding at the back of the escapee group; the Rabobank duo are powering this group along.
Number 155 Ludo Dierckxsens, the oldest man in the race, now leads the peloton in front of a mass of Telekom shirts - still the Rabobank lead the escapees.
10 seconds the gap - it is spectacular in Paris, huge crowds, the colourful caravan of the riders streaming through this ancient and beautiful city.
One of the persons in the crowd is Nick, our good friend from the Cycling Center!
It looks like it is all over from for the escapees; the majority of the break is caught but Piil and Horrilo decide to push on. Final Lap!!!!!
Hunter tries an early attack - he is joined by Brochard the two are trying a last gasp effort.
But they are caught - and straight away Fassa attack and Rumsas chases him down! Ivanov and Rumsas try a break away!
The last kms in the 89th Tour de France... Ivanov with the big ring, the men of ONCE have to chase hard again.
Olano picks up the chase for the peloton. Telekom seem to be tired and have dropped back...
Telekom has chased for 3 laps to get back the breakaways so they are probably just resting a bit to help Zabel at the finish.
Rumsas seems to be really desperate but it's really fantastic to see someone fight to the bitter end to move one step up ont he podium, but it's seems a futile attack. They are chasing too hard, almost 60kms an hour!
But the peloton bring it all back together - and an Alessio goes off the front!
Zabel has never won here on the Champs Elysees. FDJ.com is up front for Baden Cooke maybe.
FdJ leading the peloton - the peloton is back together.
It will be down to a bunch sprint, surely.
The sprint on Champs Elysees is a very difficult one. There are two S-turns in the last km and you can't afford any mistakes at that time. Even if you have a perfect lead-out it could be that you lose someones wheel in the last second.
McEwen streams out in front of Baden Cooke to take the Green jersey and the stage! McEwen has won here three years ago, Svorada last year. Cooke 2nd!
McEwen a scorching long sprint; he attacked from fourth position to take the race - Zabel did not contest the final sprint.
So an historic second jersey for Australia - Anderson won the white jersey in 1981 - now McEwen takes the stage and the green jersey - with an impressive sprint in front of his countryman!
A team mate of McEwen says that normally McEwen doesn't stop talking during a stage, but not today... he hardly spoke a word.
So the American Eagle from Texas takes the yellow - Jaja takes the polka dot for France - The Terrier McEwen takes the Green - Basso in white - and Flores the lanterne rouge.
2 stage wins for Lotto this year, like 2001. Serge Baguet is talking. He's a bit disappointed that he didn't win any stages, but he was glad to be able to help out winning the green jersey for the first time.
22,000 is the prize for the green jersey. Zabel finished 7th, Svorada 8th. O'Grady was 6th.
So an overhead view of Paris, which is laid out like the spokes of a wheel with the Arc de Triumphe as its hub - and after over 2000 miles of racing the wheels of the Tour de France have finally stopped and the winners get their kisses from the misses...
Armstrong now prepares to claim his prize - the yellow rose of Texas takes huge applause from the crowd - with Hinault helping out - Hinault must have stood on more winning podiums than any other rider - Armstrong is now joined by Beloki and Rumsas - as the national anthem of the USA is played. The riders remove their caps - and Armstrong looks to the distance - will he stand here next year?
It would take a brave man to bet against him - Beloki has been brave and determined - it is easy for critics to say he should have attacked - but it was a whippet versus a greyhound - he was simply outclassed, but rode with dignity and honour.
Rumsas has been the surprise package - and his attacks on the final laps show "the white Lance" to be a rider of rare talent and determination - we look forward to seeing him next year.
Now Jaja - a giant of the road - collects his mountain prize to huge applause - he will sorely missed next season - but what a way to end your last tour!
Now Basso - Italy's great prospect for the future - he has had a fabulous Tour - very consistent - Sean Kelly rates him as a major prospect - the contrast between the old and the new; Jalabert looking back on his career, Basso looking forwards to future races.
Now Jaja collects the most aggressive rider award - a very worthy winner, and the moment when Franck Rénier pointed to Jalabert was one of the best in the tour.
Now the ONCE - with another rider in his swan song - Olano standing on the TdF podium for the last time. The ONCE: 3 men in the top 6 - a marvellous achievement by the mighty ONCE - they have been the only team to challenge the Blue Rockets of Postal - and are worthy winners of this competition.
Now the 4 jersey winners together - with the American Ambassadour and Armstrong's family looking on...
The Grande Boucle is complete - Jalabert's three children, and Armstrong with his children are all on the podium - the race is over for another year - see you next year! Thanks for reading.