Four times in the past 10 years, the incumbent yellow jersey at the Tour de France has won the final time trial, meaning the race against the clock has simply underlined who is the strongest in the race.
Only once in the past decade has the jersey changed hands in the final TT, however. That was in 2011, when Cadel Evans easily overturned a 57-second deficit to Andy Schleck in Grenoble. Perhaps this stat, together with the fact that TTs aren't the most captivating sporting spectacle (the 2017 Giro aside) mean ASO has nipped, tucked and tinkered with the final TT in the past few years. In 2013 it was a lumpy affair in the Alps. Last year it was completely uphill in the Alps. In 2015, they got rid of a late TT altogether. This year ASO are trialling another option: a city-centre circuit in Marseille, France's second city. Closing TTs in the country's biggest cities are rare: there arguably hasn't been one of similar scale since 1989's incredible last stage, from Versailles to the Champs-Elysées.
The route starts and finishes in the Orange Stade Velodrome and is just 22.5km, which is less than half the normal distance for a closing TT. That means time gaps between favourites should be measured in seconds rather than minutes. It's an exciting-looking course: a mixture of fast flat straights, swooping curves giving way to intricate and technical route changes in the second half. The parcours also makes liberal use of the port's impressive setting, such as the Corniche, the roads around the Vieux Port at 10km, and the chief obstacle, the short steep climb to the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica which overlooks the city. The spectacle alone will be worth tuning in for even if the race for the yellow jersey was over by the Alps.
The city of Marcel Pagnol and Zinedine Zidane has frequently been under the spotlights. Already on the program of the first Tour de France in 1903 at the end of a 374-km stage that has left Lyon, it was also on the course of the 50th Tour anniversary (1953), then again of the centenary in 2003 and more recently of the 100th edition in 2013. Other than cycling, it was also in a year finishing by 3 that Marseille certainly witnessed its greatest sporting moment when the OM of Basile Boli and Didier Deschamps conquered the European Champions Cup in 1993. The next major highlight coming up will be on the 2017 calendar during which Marseille will be promoted to Sports Capital of Europe. The second biggest trade harbor in the Mediterranean will also find out next September if it has to prepare for another major outcome. Indeed the sailing events would be due to take place in Marseille if Paris was chosen to host the 2024 Olympic Games.
Cadel Evans says
"The emotion of winning the Tour no matter where it finishes is pretty amazing. Certainly, it will be a fantastic show, whether you are there as a spectator or a rider. If you've lost the Tour and you are in second place, which is always disappointing, to ride into an ambience like that could something special indeed.
"My compliments to ASO for being able to organise such an event for a race as big as the Tour and for such an important stage. In the past we have had stage finishes that won't come close to this in size, so to come into a finish like this will be something quite special and amazing."
This is the Moment of Truth
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 78:08:19
2 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:23
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac 0:00:29
4 Mikel Landa (Spa) Team Sky 0:01:36
5 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:01:55
6 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 0:02:56
7 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott 0:04:46
8 Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates 0:06:52
9 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb 0:08:22
10 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 0:08:34
P.S: What do you think about the second place? Can Bardet hold on?