I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be a sprinter who has to perform on the Champs-Elysées, or on any final Grand Tour stage for that matter. A rider like me doesn’t regard the final stage as anything difficult. But the success of an entire team’s Tour may rest on a fast man’s shoulders before the final lead-out. For them, the race is only finished when there are no more finish lines.
For me, stage 20 feels as much the end as stage 21. Perhaps even better: I remember in 2014 when [then-Tinkoff team-mate] Michael Rogers won the Giro’s penultimate stage on the Zoncolan.
Zoncolan was the final barrier that stood between me and my first Grand Tour finish. As wrong as it may sound, I could actually enjoy one of the world’s steepest climbs. I knew Rogers had won, I was far from the time cut and the race was over.
Stage 21 was finished. There is no stage 22. There never is. Before I knew it, I was sitting in an airport hotel drinking a beer and eating peanuts from the mini bar. Twenty-one stages and a pack of peanuts. I was going home.
And as I sit and write about my experiences, I wonder what Paris must feel like. It’s something I hope to be a part of this summer. But before reaching the Champs-Elysées, there are many hors-catégorie climbs, gruppettos, bad legs and crashes to overcome. Touch wood, I’ll get there. Touch wood.
Chris Juul-Jensen, Orica-Greenedge. Extract from issue 63, on sale now
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