Photos by Kristof Ramon
Words by Beppe Conti - Editor of LA PASSIONE
Champs Élysées is one of the most fascinating places in the world when it comes to the city and history. And the Tour de France could not relieve it, when the legendary organizers decided to use the historic centers of big cities full of charm and landings of applause. In Italy we have Vincenzo Torriani, and in France Jacques Goddet and Felix Levitan.
These two gentlemen proposed the Champs Élysées as the final destination of the Tour de France. Previously, the most noble and classic of the conclusions was Parco dei Principi, legendary stadium and velodrome wanted in the late nineteenth century by the creator of the Tour de France Henri Desgrange. Unfortunately in 1967 the Park sacrificed the glorious pink concrete runway of more than 600 meters to increase the number of spectators in the stands. And wonder what... the last winner at Parc des Princes was... the eternal second, Raymond Poulidor, which in the final stage of the Tour 1967, a time trial of 46 km, defeated Gimondi for only 25''.
Goddet and Levitan had been lucky, on the other hand it really seems that luck helps the brave. They chose the Champs as the final place of one of the most spectacular and modern Tours of the modern era, the Tour de France of the unexpected yield of Eddy Merckx, of the triumph of a Frenchman, Bernard Thevenet, the yellow jersey of Francesco Moser at the finish line of the prologue time trial in Charleroi Belgium. The Tour 1975. And so on with the races in that majestic place, a classic for that sumptuous arrival on the final goal. But beware, it was not only sprints.
The first rewarded in any case a great protagonist of the classic, Walter Godefroot, then it was the turn of another great sprinter, the Dutch Karstens and Freddy Maertens, Vanderaerden and finally an Italian, the first Guidone Bontempi in 1986, headed to a sprint of great athletic power on the Flemish and the Dutch. It was not easy for the italians to win on the Champs in the presence of large sprinter as they Museeuw and Van Poppel, Ludwig and Abdujaparov (two victories), Steels and Mc Ewen (two victories) Boonen and Hushovd, until the sensational poker of Marc Cavendish.
The Italians have had a moment of glory in the 90s. Ten years after Bontempi in fact, will come Fabio Baldato. And then the next season, in 1997, Nicola Minali beats even Erik Zabel, the great champion of the sprints, always defeated on that famous destination, as in 2000 when it had to surrender to Stefano Zanini. Fate was ungrateful with the german. He came third even in 2007, preempted by Hushovd, but especially second to Daniele Bennati, the last Italian winner on the Champs.
We talked about sprints, but that is no all. We have as well moments of glory and history that belong to the legend of the sport of cycling. One of the most famous, that ruthless and dramatic battle between Laurent Fignon in yellow jersey and Greg LeMond that in the last lap of just 24.5 kilometers from Versailles, wins, surpassing the rival in the standings and won resoundingly the Tour de France for an incredible 8".
The poor Laurent has never recovered from the incredible defeat in that bloody time trial. The rest belongs to Bernard Hinault, a great protagonist of all goals. In 1982, he possessed an innate taste for challenge, he wanted to compete on that last goal with the sprinters. They were accusing, part of the French press, to have won the Tour after the Giro that summer, without giving too much of a show. Although he took the luxury to beat the sprinters with a rare power sprint in his the yellow jersey.
A standing ovation for a great Bernard who gave a great show in 1979, when he arrived in Paris from the Valley of Chevreuse, made famous from an old Parisian Grand Prix of Nations, by the end of the Paris-Bordeaux and Paris-Tours.
Hinault and Zoetemelk, first and second, attacked on the last day among those ups and downs and sowed the group. They arrived on the Champs on their own, and Hinault defeated the rival with a sprint in the applause of the Parisians, proud and happy for being the godfather of a new great champion.