The scenic finish can't hide the ugly journey
PARIS -- One of the most timeless moments in the Tour de France comes after the three-week endurance test is over and the teams slowly parade up and around the long, cobblestoned sweep of the Champs-Elysees, where the top sprinters in the peloton just finished trying to beat each others' brains out.No matter what the weather is throughout the final Sunday, this ritual always seems to unfold in a dreamy silver haze with dusk falling on the broad avenue that was a battleground when Paris was liberated during World War II. Riders roll at a deliberate pace with their arms around one another, waving and grinning in obvious relief. This year, there was ecstatic Team CSC-Saxo Bank, clearly the deepest and most astute squad in the race, flanking its soft-spoken matador Carlos Sastre, who won the Tour with one well-timed attack on Alpe d'Huez. At the other end of the spectrum was beleaguered Barloworld, which had just four of nine riders left at the end, decimated by crashes and a positive doping test.
Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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