In a break with tradition, the 2024 Tour de France will culminate in a Stage 21 time-trial in Nice.
Throughout its history, the men’s peloton has always concluded the Grand Tour in Paris or a few kilometres outside the capital. The finish location has bounced around throughout the Tour de France’s history from the Parc des Princes Velodrome and even east towards the Vélodrome de la Cipale, before finally settling its roots on the Champs-Élysées since 1975.
Like a stern oak tree in the forest, there it has stayed for decades.
But a move from the iconic finish location of the Champs-Élysées in 2024 has been necessitated by the logistical challenges of Paris also hosting the 2024 Olympic Games. The Tour will end on Sunday 21st July with the Olympics set to begin just five days later on Friday 26th July.
A final day time-trial will of course evoke memories of Greg LeMond in 1989. In one of the most exciting finishes in Tour history, the maillot jaune was to be decided on the final day of the race and not the penultimate stage before a processional finale, the American overhauled his 50-second deficit to French leader Laurent Fignon.
LeMond won the 1989 Tour de France by just eight seconds. It remains the closest winning margin in the race’s history.
Tour organiser ASO will be hoping for more of the same in 2024, although whether the finale proves quite as dramatic as in 1989 will of course rely on more than just the final day’s parcours.
In recent terms, though, it could easily rival the spectacle of Tadej Pogačar surging to victory on the penultimate-stage La Planche des Belles Filles time-trial in 2020.
On the other hand, what chances of the Tour going down to the wire like the 2020 Giro d’Italia, which saw Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart tied on the same time heading into the final stage time-trial? What a sight!
While on the Champs-Élysées last year for the Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes, I wrote an article weighing up whether ASO should ditch the processional-style Stage 21 – in which a ceremonial ride and celebratory photographs are the only real challenges before the Champs-Élysées sprint – or try and persuade riders to divert from tradition and race the last day.
Something I’m dreaming of witnessing is a breakaway victory for Stage 21, which will once again have to take a backseat with the time-trial news for 2024.
However, at least now the 2024 Tour de France will be ensuring a final stage of racing, even if it’s against the clock. I’m looking forward to seeing how the scene will be set.
Hopefully a small time margin towards the top of the general classification will provide some nail-biting drama as the maillot jaune is decided. Then, the Nice time-trial will intertwine itself in Tour legend.
We’ll see for the 111th edition of the Tour de France in 2024.
Main photo: Godingimages