1979 – Bernard Hinault holds off Joop Zoetemelk
The Tour de France’s fifth finish on the Champs-Élysées witnessed a showdown between Frenchman Bernard Hinault and his Dutch rival Joop Zoetemelk, with the latter trailing by three minutes and seven seconds going into the final stage. Zoetemelk launched an attack on the title, but Hinault managed to chase him down and retain the yellow jersey, also finishing top of the points classification and second in the mountains competition. Testing for anabolic steroids was also carried out for the first time in 1979. After the Tour’s conclusion, Zoetemelk was found guilty of doping abuses, however he kept his second place.
1987 – Stephen Roche’s narrow victory (and loss)
Stephen Roche remains the one and only cyclist from Ireland to have won the Tour de France, beating Pedro Delgado from Spain by 40 seconds. However, in the final stages of that year’s race, the leadership of the points classification – which is determined by finishing position at each stage and intermediate time trials – had passed back and forth between Roche and Jean-Paul van Poppel from the Netherlands. Despite leading this competition on the last day, van Poppel’s ninth place finish on the Champs-Élysées secured him this minor victory over the Irishman. Despite winning the final stage in spectacular style, the American Jeff Pierce failed to place in any of the Tour’s competitions that year.
1989 – Closest ever finish between Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon
Greg LeMond from the United States and Laurent Fignon of France were never more than 53 seconds apart at the head of the pack throughout the entire 1989 Tour de France. Before the final day of competition – the only time that it has ended with a time trial on the Champs-Élysées – LeMond trailed two-time champion Fignon by 50 seconds. LeMond rode an average speed of 54.55 kilometers per hour (34.093 miles per hour) to register the second fastest time trial time in the event’s history. This brought him victory by a margin of only eight seconds and his second Tour title.
1991 – Djamolidine Abdoujaparov’s epic crash
Just 100 meters from the finish line of the 1991 Tour, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov of the Soviet Union clipped his wheel on a barrier and crashed out of the race. He had been leading the points classification since Stage Three, but needed to cross the line at the Arc de Triomphe in order to claim his victory. After regaining consciousness, and some 15 minutes after the crash happened, he was helped to his feet and across the finish line. Dazed, confused, and presumably extremely bruised, he still managed to take home the green jersey.
2005 – The battle for fifth place
After the revelation in 2012 of Lance Armstrong’s extensive doping abuses, he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, meaning that there is technically no winner of the race from 1999 to 2005. Further back in the field in Armstrong’s final year of competing, Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan and the American Levi Leipheimer were separated by only two seconds between fifth and sixth place. However, during the last kilometer of the final stage, Vinokourov managed one of the few ever breakaway victories to claim fifth place. In 2012, Leipheimer admitted to doping offences and was retroactively disqualified from the competition.
2009-12 – Mark Cavendish, a missile on the Champs-Élysées
Known as the Manx Missile, Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom has to date won 30 Tour de France stages in his career, putting him second on the all-time list. He also took the points classification in 2011 and in the following year became the first rider ever to win the final stage on the Champ-Élysées in four consecutive years. In the same year, Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour and his teammate and fellow countryman Chris Froome finished in second place. With 65 medals at the 2012 London Olympics a month later, it really was a golden summer for British sport.
2015 – Bad weather neutralizes final laps
Due to heavy rainfalls on the final day of racing of the 2015 Tour, officials decided to neutralize the final laps around central Paris. The final times were instead taken from when the cyclists first crossed the line of the Champs-Élysées at the 41 kilometers marker. From that point on, if a rider crashed or had a mechanical problem due to the slippery cobbles over the subsequent 70 kilometers, it would not affect his final position, so long as he made it across the finishing line. This year saw Chris Froome become the first Britain to win the Tour twice, following his victory in 2013, and he also won the mountains classification.