Tour de France 2014, stage 21: Marcel Kittel wins on Champs-Elysees as Vincenzo Nibali is crowned champion
There were strange echoes of a distant, faraway time in Paris on Sunday; Red London buses parked off the Champs-Élysées, Yorkshire flags bearing the white rose lining the famous boulevard, cries of “Allez Geraint!” with an unmistakable Welsh lilt.
It has been three long weeks since the UK staged what Christian Prudhomme, the Tour de France director, referred to as the “grandest of grands départs”, with two magical stages in Yorkshire and a third from Cambridge to London.
Those were heady days, millions of fans lining the routes, wowing the peloton with their passion. Intimidating them, too.
There were the complaints from several riders about the trend for taking ‘selfies’ or just generally encroaching too far into the road. Most of all, though, there was enthusiasm and positivity.
Expectations on the home front back then were high. Mark Cavendish, closing in on second spot in the list of all-time Tour stage winners, was expected to ignite the early, largely flat stages of the race with his eagerly anticipated duel with Marcel Kittel; British riders had won the last two maillots jaunes; and Chris Froome was favoured to defend his crown.