PARIS (AP) — A Tour de France for the ages is getting a champion of an unusually young age: 22-year-old Egan Bernal, set to become South America's first winner of cycling's greatest race when he rides to the finish in yellow on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday night.
The slightly built Colombian with a killer instinct on the road proved to be the strongest of the 176 strong men who roared off from the start in Brussels, Belgium, on July 6 on their three-week, 3,366-kilometer (2,092-mile) odyssey that delivered the most absorbing, drama-packed Tour in decades and a new cycling super-star in the making: Bernal.
Colombian fans were partying in Paris even before the surviving 155 riders roused their tired legs for the 21st and final stage from Rambouillet west of Paris. But the millions of French fans who lined the roads through east, central and southern France, and up into the thinning air of the Pyrenees and Alps, were ruing a Tour of bitter-sweet. First, they were thrilled by fabulous racing from French riders Julian Alaphilippe, who held the race lead for 14 days, and Thibaut Pinot, who won on the first of seven 2,000-meter-plus peaks scaled by the highest Tour in history. But joy turned to sorrow when their prospects of becoming France's first winner since 1985 were cruelly dashed in the last week.