Every time of year is right to visit Paris. Each season has got something special to offer, and if you come to the City of Lights at the end of July, you’ll surely welcome the opportunity to watch top cyclists in action, as this is the month when the world-famous Tour de France ends with its final stage on Champs-Elysées. Expect nothing less than pure excitement, thrill and spirit of competition in the air! 1 out of 21 If your only association with the number 21 is the popular card game by the name of Blackjack, it’s time for some new knowledge: 21 is also the number of stages comprised in Tour de France. Out of these, the most significant one is the final one, which since 1975 has taken place on Champs-Elysées and because of this special setting, it has been also considered as the most prestigious one.
If you arrive to Champs-Elysées to support the competitors on the day of closing of the race, expect a massive cheerful crowd of onlookers lined along Rue de Rivoli, around Place de la Concorde and all other local highlights of the route, which all in all creates a truly solemn and unique atmosphere. In practice, this final stage is treated as a kind of ‘victory lap’ as the final ranking is already known before it starts, though sometimes you can expect certain twists, particularly when it comes to settling the ultimate classification of points.
The 21st stage of Tour de France opens with a custom of serving champagne by the race leader’s team and starts in Évry to finish in Paris, where the competition gets really heated as cyclists speed along Rue de Rivoli, Place de la Concorde and conclude the race on the Champs-Élysées. The riders have to complete eight laps, through the city towards Arc de Triomphe, down Champs-Élysées, round les Tuileries and the Louvre across Place de la Concored and back to Champs-Élysées. Another custom involves the whole peloton making way for the rider with obvious advantage, so that he can enter the last section of the race without the further need to compete, like in the case of George Hincapie, who got that privilege in 2012 in recognition of his record-setting and final 17th Tour de France.
The essence of sportsmanship – free or charge Tour de France is considered the most prestigious of the three Grand Tours (the full list consists additionally of Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España), but it also remains very spectator-friendly, as it is open to public free of charge. Still, due to its high popularity (some even tend to camp for days in order to get better places), be prepared to face some really big – but very friendly – crowd. After all, this event is one which in the 20th century inspired the French to learn more of their country because of the heterogeneous route of the race, and now it can inspire you to learn more of the French attitude to sports, especially since you can get a fantastic opportunity to participate in a world-famous event where you can witness sweet tears of joy of victory mixing with bitter taste of defeat, and all that in an atmosphere of mutual respect.