A long, flat stage like today is all about the set-piece sprint finish.
We can all get on with our day – a nice bit of lunch, maybe a spot of work if we have to – before gathering around the telly late afternoon for the final ten kilometres. This is where the action happens.
And yet, in full knowledge of this fact, the historic finish town of Chartres misses a trick.
Sure, it was exciting enough, as the big sprinter’s teams threw the kitchen sink at the slightly uphill drag to the finish, but it could have been so much more. It could have been Biblical. They could have really pushed the boat (or should that be Arc) out.
Chartres has a famous Cathedral, right?
So stick the flamme rouge a kilometre from the pulpit, and have Sagan, Gaviria, Kittel and Greipel sprint in through the main entrance, down the aisles, and lunge for a finish line cast in the light of one hundred and seventy six stained-glass windows.
Now that would be a spectacle.
Chartres Cathedral, religion fans, is a Roman Catholic institution. For the prestige of a Tour de France finish it’s fair to say Papal approval for this stage finish wouldn’t be a problem – Popes have always met (and apparently revered) pro cyclists down the years.
Back in January 2018 Pope Francis invited Peter Sagan to the Vatican where this great man, with millions of devoted followers across the globe, presented the head honcho of the Catholic Church with a rainbow jersey and special edition bike.*
A Sagan-friendly sprint through Chartres Cathedral is the least his Pope-ship could do in return.
And just imagine the atmosphere. A couple of thousand adrenaline fuelled cycling fans could really make use of those twelfth century acoustics. Maybe Eurosport’s Carlton Kirby could’ve dressed in full priest regalia and delivered his frantic commentary like a sermon?
Alas, it wasn’t to be.Embed from Getty Images
The powers that be went for the more conventional finishing terrain of a road, outdoors.
In the final stages, as Sagan and Gaviria watched each other like hawks, Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen unleashed a devastating finishing burst – all biceps and shoulders – and very nearly pulled his own bike to pieces in delivering an imposing win.
Much more of that and he, too, will find himself at the Vatican, donating yet more pro cycling memorabilia to the Pontiff’s private collection.
*When asked what they talked about, Sagan told reporters (with a glint in his eye): “Pope Francis asked me to pray for him.”
(Chartres stained glass: via Wikimedia CC – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.fr)