Greipel extends record of Tour de France stage victories
André Greipel emerged victorious for the second year in a row to extend his remarkable run of winning a stage in each and every Grand Tour he's ridden since 2008.
Unlike Cavendish, they'd all trekked over three tortuous Alpine stages to get here, and the opportunity wasn't going to be passed up lightly.
"I can't describe it. I'm just super proud of what we've achieved today," said the German. "I've raced for three weeks for that. Another stage win at the Tour de France – it's wonderful."
Peter Sagan – who else? – was second, while Alexander Kristoff finished third again to make it a fifth barren Grand Tour.
André Greipel (Lotto Soudal), vainqueur sur les Champs-Elysées lors de la 21e étapeAFP
"I don't puncture once during the Tour, and now I puncture here," rued the Frenchman, whose mother had recently been interviewed in French TV at the side of the Champs.
There were high hopes for 'Le Coq' after Romain Bardet had stoked the enthusiasm of the home nation with his burst into second overall. The 24-year-old was second to Kittel by 28 agonising millimetres in stage 4's photo finish, and was determined to provide confirmation here of his coming of age.
"It's frustrating because I've been thinking about this stage for five to six days now. The whole team – not just me. I wanted to do this for them. It's really annoying," said Coquard afterwards.
Tour de France 2016: Marcel Kittel und André GreipelAFP
Marcel Kittel was the only other 'pure sprinter' to have won a bunch kick before today, but was no less motivated here. That certainly showed when he furiously flung one of his wheels into the road, having suffered three mechanical issues in quick succession.
The strapping German won twice in a row in Paris in 2013 and 2014 in what had signalled a changing of the guard from the Cavendish era, but the tables have been turned once more this July.
Leaving with one stage win is no disaster for Kittel, but he seemed to have announced himself as the strongest sprinter in the world in the first half of the season, and would have been hungry to restore that notion with another symbolic win here.
As it was, he didn't contest the sprint, rolling home nearly a minute behind his compatriot. With one stage apiece at the Tour, and 3-2 in Greipel's favour at the Giro d'Italia, the German selectors face an interesting decision for the World Championships in October.