This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) sprinted to victory in the final stage of this year's Tour de France, ending Mark Cavendish's four-year winning streak on the Champs-Élysées. Kittel led from the front inside the final 200 metres, with Andre Greipel and Cavendish unable to close the gap.
Under the Parisian dusk, and with the Arc de Triomphe providing a spectacular backdrop, Kittel was delivered to the line perfectly, his Argos-Shimano team forging their path to the front of the peloton with immaculate timing.
With Greipel and Cavendish struggling to draw level in the closing meters, Kittel was able to claim his fourth stage of this year's race, marking a complete turnaround from last year when he abandoned his debut Tour through illness and injury.
"The best thing a sprinter can do is win on the Champs-Élysées. The sprint was tough but it went perfectly. My legs felt good and so I'm really happy," he said after being first on the final Tour de France podium.
"It's difficult to say after such a great Tour de France. I've won four stages. I'm proud of myself and my team. We had some hard days in the mountains but we give it everything together that what's made the difference."
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) celebrates his victory in the final stage of the Tour
Team Sky's Chris Froome finished the final stage safely, rolling across the finish line with his six teammates 53 seconds after Kittel, and winning his first Tour de France, while Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) rounded out the final podium of the 100th Tour de France. For the second year in a row Sky toasted their Tour de France champion as race organisers ASO pulled out all the stops to celebrate the Tour's 100 edition.
Froome savoured every moment on the podium as the winner of the Tour de France.
"It's absolutely incredible! I could actually feel myself welling up with tears it was really quite an emotional feeling riding across the line with my teammates who have just killed themselves to keep the yellow jersey on my back for these past two weeks," he said.
"It has been an absolutely incredible journey. It's been a tough journey – a bloody tough journey – but to be here, standing on the top step of the podium on the Champs-Elysées is all worth it, 100 percent worth it."
Froome read a message on the podium:
"I'd like to thank my teammates who buried themselves day-in, day-out to keep this yellow jersey on my shoulders and the Team Sky management for believing in me and building this team around me. Thank you to all the people who have taken the time to teach me over the years. Finally, I'd like to thank my close friends and family for being there for me every step of the way," he said.
"This is a beautiful country and it hosts the biggest annual sporting event on the planet. To win the 100th edition is an honour. This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time."
Historic evening finale to 100th Tour de France edition
The peloton rides through Versailles
The stage from Versailles set off in the early evening, with the peloton reaching Paris just as dusk began to fall. By then the customary roll call of photos had been ceremoniously concluded, the champagne flute thrown away and Peter Sagan's green wig to celebrate his second straight green jersey, discarded.
As the race wound through the streets of Paris and around the Arc de Triomphe for the first time there was even time for Miguel Indurain, Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault to enjoy an open top parade.
Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) was watching from the sidelines, however, having pulled out with 38 kilometres remaining due to illness, a reminder of how cruel luck can be in cycling.
Cavendish, looking for an unprecedented fifth straight stage in win Paris, had to chase back after an early puncture. It was left to another British rider to open the attacking proceedings with David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) the first rider to escape the clutches of the Sky-led field. Millar, who has struggled at times in this year's race, was joined by fellow veteran Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM).
The pair kicked out an advantage that stretched to 25 seconds but with 23 kilometres remaining the Spaniard was forced to yield, allowing Millar to soak up the atmosphere as he raced around Norwegian corner, bouncing his way through the gutters that line the edges of the Champs-Élysées and across the line.
As the sky dimmed and the lights from the race motorbikes flickered into life Millar's energies began to fade.
Jeremy Roy was the next rider to launch a move but he was unable to match Millar's attempt and was quickly passed by the trio of Manuel Quinziato (BMC), Bram Tankink (Belkin) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Although a more dangerous proposition than Roy, they too were reeled in, the sprinters not to be denied after a week in the Alps and the Champs-Élysées finishing line in sight.
Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) summoned his teammates into action, Cavendish neatly tucked into the final slot as the peloton flew into the final three kilometres. Lotto Belisol and Cannondale muscled their way to the front as Argos-Shimano drifted in, their lead-out now arguably the best in the world.
Kittel still needed to finish the job off and despite Cavendish and Greipel breathing down his neck, the 25-year-old German was able to hold his line and his strength.
As night fell the attention turned to Froome, the British rider completing a staggering journey that has culminated in a dominant win in this year's race. He dedicated the win to his late mother, and flanked by Quintana and Rodriguez, becomes the second British winner of the world's biggest race.
Quintana, second overall, pulled on the white jersey, with Sagan ruling green and Alberto Contador's Saxo-Tinkoff winning the team classification.
Video: Chris Froome press conference selected highlights