Monday, July 26, 2010

TDF 2010 Stage 20: Longjumeau to Paris Champs-Élysées

The peloton winding down one of the final laps of the Champs-Élysées in this year's Tour. I'd love to be there to witness the spectacle one day.
Image courtesy of Fotoreporter Sirotti.

As many reading today will realize, my daily coverage of the 2010 Tour de France is drawing near to its close. The Tour finished in exciting fashion yesterday, with the now traditional slow dance — full of camaraderie and publicity opportunities — through the suburbs of Paris, followed by a ceremonial entrance onto the Champs-Élysées and finally ending with eight fast and furious circuits around the Champs, from the Jardin des Tuileries at one end to a 180 degree turn just short of the Arc de Triomphe at the other.

It's been nearly ten years since I was last in Paris, a shortcoming that's sorely in need of remedy. I've walked the boulevards and parks along the Champs-Élysées, stared up at the Arc and back down at the dizzying traffic 'round the Place Charles de Gaulle but never have I been there on that special day in late July when, as it has for the last 35 years, the Tour de France passes through, shutting down the grands boulevards for its swan song, the last of its annual 20-21 stages.

The idealist in me imagines sitting at a café table outside a little bar à vin on the Champs-Élysées, snacking and sipping the afternoon away while watching the peloton zoom by in the final throes of competition. The realist in me knows that no wine bar I'd enjoy could possibly afford the rent on such a prestigious stretch of real estate. And besides, I'd never be able to see anything over the throngs of fans, ten-deep so I'm told, that line the sidewalks. So, I suppose I'd have to settle for a brown bag lunch and a bottle or two to share with friends, that is assuming the local gendarmerie would tolerate such behavior. In either scenario, I could easily imagine enjoying wines such as those below.

The 2009 Rosé de Loire "Le P'tit Rosé" from Domaine Ricard and 2007 Morgon Côte du Py" of Jean Foillard would be perfect choices for a hot July afternoon on the streets of Paris. Bright, focused, terroir-driven expressions of the winegrowing arts, yet both unabashedly gluggable and perfect served with a refreshing chill.

Some of the most memorable stage finishes on the Champs-Élysées in the last 25 years have been the results of individual exploits: Greg Lemond's defeat of Laurent Fignon to claim the stage and overall victory in the 1989 Tour and Frankie Andreu's near success in a solo breakaway in the 1994 Tour come immediately to mind. More often, though, the Champs-Élysées is the sacred battleground of the field sprinters, as was the case this year and last with Mark "The Manx Missile" Cavendish taking out stage honors in beachstorming style.

Mark Cavendish celebrating his fifth and final stage victory of the 2010 Tour.
Photo © Roberto Bettini.

Then there's another kind of memorable entirely... regard, the Tashkent Terror on the Champs-Élysées in 1994.

Up next: Le Tour in review, a thank you or ten, and a look forward to next year.

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