5 Most Unforgettable Sprint Stages in Tour de France History
In cycling, there is prestige which comes with wearing the yellow jersey, but for a sprinter it’s rare you get the chance to wear it.
The most dominant sprinter who books their place at the Champs-Élysées will wear the green jersey for leading the points classification at the Tour de France.
Green represents consistency – not only in the sprints but as an all-rounder over the mountains too.
We have been very lucky to see some amazing sprint stages in France in the past. Here are five of the most thrilling sprints ever seen in TDF history.
1991: Stage 22 – Melun to Paris – Nightmare for the Tashkent Terror
Djamolidine Abdoujaparov earned his nickname “The Tashkent Terror” for his unorthodox sprinting. His “elbows out” style of riding was often blamed for a number of crashes in the peloton. During a post-stage interview in 1991 rival, Johan Museeuw pleaded with the race jury to reconsider Abdoujaparov’s erratic sprinting line after being squeezed out of a finish in an earlier stage.
However, Abdoujaparov received a taste of his own medicine after colliding with the barriers on the Champs-Élysées during the final 100 metres – all his own making. He was leading the points classification and it took fellow teammates to get him back on the bike to slowly cross the line, despite a broken collarbone and concussion. Abdoujaparov was taken to hospital immediately and is the only green jersey winner to miss the podium in Paris. The stage was won by Dimitri Konishev.
2007: Stage 3 – Waregem to Compiègne – A Steal for Cancellara
Fabian Cancellara is seen as one of the most impressive riders of his generation. In x 2007 he was the time trial world champion – his strength and excellent time trialing ability helped snatch a stage designed for the sprinters all while wearing the yellow jersey. In the final kilometre, Cancellara took advantage of the remainder of the breakaway hesitating on the run to the line.
This hesitation also tricked the sprinters behind who were unable to react in time to Cancellara’s canny move. The stage was 236 kilometres, which almost made the day like a Spring classic and Cancellara’s attributes were well suited to longer days – being a former winner of Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. He recalls this win in Compiègne as one of the hardest final kilometres of his career.
2012: Stage 18 – Blagnac to Brive-La-Gaillarde – British Dominance
The Brits have tasted great success in more recent years in the Tour with thanks to Team Sky, Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins but Mark Cavendish has 30 stage wins to his name. Picking one of Cavendish’s victories is a tough ask but in 2012 the Brits made their mark with a sensational sprint from the Manx Missile.
Cavendish – in the rainbow jersey at the time for being the world road race champion was led out in the final kilometre by Bradley Wiggins – wearing the yellow jersey. With 600 metres to go Cavendish was around ten riders back once the breakaway got caught but his phenomenal speed helped to power past the likes of Luis Leon Sanchez and Nicolas Roche. Cavendish ending up winning the sprint in splendid isolation. This victory was his 22nd Tour stage win where he became level with Andre Darrigade as the most successful sprinter at the Tour. Cavendish is now king of the Tour sprints and a legend in his own field.
2013: Stage 10 – Saint-Gildas-Des-Bois to Saint-Malo – Sprinting Masterclass by the Germans
Germany seem to have a conveyor belt of sprinting talent from Andre Greipel to Marcel Kittel and Pascal Ackermann, but Kittel beating Greipel on stage 10 in 2013 was the battle of two powerhouses. The sprint was hectic after a crash-marred the last few metres – Cavendish narrowly avoided going down after bumping shoulders with one of Kittel’s teammates. At this moment, Team Lotto Belisol were giving the “Gorilla” – as Greipel is fondly known – a perfect lead out at the front of the bunch.
Kittel got caught behind Greipel’s last man while trying to gain ground towards the finish. With the metres passing by Kittel narrowly pipped Greipel on the line, a result which saw him beat three of the best sprinters cycling will ever see in the shape of Greipel, Cavendish and Peter Sagan. Kittel managed to win four sprint stages in the Tour that year and confirmed Germany’s superiority in the discipline.
2017: Stage 4 – Mondorf-Les-Bains to Vittel – Drama After Win for Démare
Arnaud Démare gave his fellow countrymen a much-needed success after his strong sprint on stage four to Vittel – but the drama which unfolded in the last 500m and post-race became the main talking points. The sprint to the line seen Cavendish forced into the barriers by Sagan, resulting in a nasty crash. Footage appeared to show Sagan elbowing Cavendish causing a squeeze against the barriers which he couldn’t avoid.
The chaos continued post-race as fellow riders and Cavendish’s team Dimension Data were furious with Sagan’s sprint and eventually the race jury decided to disqualify the world champion from the Tour – after finishing second to Démare. A bold decision to remove the winner of several green jerseys and Sagan continued to protest his innocence claiming he did not know Cavendish was there. Hero to villain in the blink of an eye, the replays showed how dangerous sprinting can be.
On paper, sprint stages and their profiles can look uninspiring but it’s a discipline for the fearless. From Cancellara to Cavendish – sprinting at the Tour never fails to surprise and you can guarantee to see more epic sprinting at the Tour de France in the future.
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