And now we've just finished Stage 21 and the 101er Le Tour de France, Live From Paris on NBCSports.
-- Vincenzo Nibali wins the Yellow Jersey. He led for most of the Tour, 7 minutes 32 seconds ahead -- and something like the biggest margin of victory since 1977.
-- Marcel Kittel won his fourth stage and a repeat of his 2013 Stage 21 win.
There are so many victories along the way. There was a run to be the man leading the race at the bell, the last lap. Points in Sprint zones and King of the Mountains climbs. Stage wins. Yellow, Green, red & white Polka Dot and White jerseys -- overall General Classification, Sprint, King of the Mountains and Best Young Rider. Italian Nibali of course for Yellow, then Peter Sagan for Green - 431 over 232 points for 2nd place, Rafal Maika of Poland - 182 over 168 points, and Thibault Pinot respectively. And a prize but not a jersey also given for Most Agressive Rider. Team championship to AG2R -- NOT one of the huge budget teams.
There were 3 days in England -- Leeds, Sheffield, London -- and days in Belgium and Spain. Cobblestones. One time trial at Stage 20. Alps followed directly by the Pyrenees. Ah, Le Col de Tourmaline. Categorie 4, 3, 2, 1, HC -- Beyond Classification -- climbs.
Spectacular crashes with big names out. 100° heat. Terrible rains. 60 mph descents on narrow mountain curves. The relentless sinuous living thing which is the peloton. A crowd which waited for and cheered and pounded on the sheet metal barriers for an American in so much back pain he sat on a guardrail for four minutes before limping in safely under the time cutoff for that stage -- and then withdrawing.
164 of 199 riders finished after over 2000 miles to the Champs-Élysées. France wins second and third place podium positions.
And how many championships do the competitors clink champagne flutes in the middle of the competition?
Exciting stuff. I love it.