- cycling - Paris - sport - Tour de France
Only a cruel twist of fate can prevent Carlos Sastre from playing the leading role in the Champs-Elysees parade marking the end of the 95th Tour de France on Sunday.
With a lead of one minute and five seconds over Australian Cadel Evans and 1:20 over Austrian Bernhard Kohl, the 33-year-old Spaniard of the CSC team will be forgiven for starting the celebrations early.
The 21st and final stage is widely expected to end in a bunch sprint, with Spaniard Oscar Freire keen to wrap up his near-unassailable green jersey lead with a second race victory.
On the 143-km course from Etampes, the mood of the race will quickly change when relief and relaxation give way to tension as the peloton approaches Paris.
Some riders will take a last opportunity to shine by breaking away during the eight laps that will also take the riders on the Rue de Rivoli and the Place de la Concorde.
Since the Champs-Elysees became the scene of the Tour finale in 1975 the last stage has often been decided in a mass finish.