Caleb Ewan has been the best sprinter in this Tour, writes Jack Houghton, but Boasson Hagen is consistent on this last stage
"Breakaways may get a handful of seconds' advantage, but this stage is the dominion of the sprinters, with many viewing it as their unofficial world championship..."
What's the stage like?
A short affair at only 128km which follows a largely familiar pattern: it starts late, on the outskirts of Paris - this time Rambouillet - before hitting the first of eight laps up-and-down the Champs-Elysees at around 5pm (BST).
One slightly unusual feature for the final day is the presence of two categorised climbs in the first third of the stage, which will formally end the competition for the Mountains Classification (in which Romain Bardet is now mathematical uncatchable).
Otherwise, though, most of the day will be taken up with the usual media nonsense: lots of helicopter shots of visitor attractions in what is increasingly as much a 21-day, lavish, tourist infomercial as it is a bike race; and Egan Bernal pretending that sipping champagne while out riding - a tradition for whoever wears the Yellow Jersey in to Paris - is a regular ritual for him, even though he's barely over the legal age for alcohol consumption in most countries, and is therefore more used to sneaking cans of White Lightning down to the park than he is to drinking France's best sparkling wine.
If they have White Lightning in Colombia, that is.
The stage proper gets under way when the peloton reaches the Champs-Elysees. More challenging than it appears on television, the cobbles make for a punishing eight laps and explain why break-away attempts will dive for the few centimetres of smooth guttering on the road's edge, preferring the jeopardy of hitting the curb than experiencing a skeletal-shaking solo attempt.
Those breakaways may get a handful of seconds' advantage, but this stage is the dominion of the sprinters, with many viewing it as their unofficial world championship and so - if this follows the pattern of most other years - any solo attempts at victory will be unsuccessful.
Who are the favourites?
The best sprinters in the race have been Dylan Groenewegen ([3.50]), Caleb Ewan ([3.50]) and Elia Viviani ([5.50]). Ewan has emerged top of that pile. His confidence and form have grown as the race has progressed, and his win on Stage 16 showed a rider who has worked out how to handle himself in the mania of a Tour de France bunch sprint.
He's the choice of the trio, but it's worth bearing in mind that all three have experienced a torrid time in recent days to survive in the race, and form from a few stages ago might not be easily transferrable: this could be as much about who has endured the three-weeks best.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Assuming he completes the stage without calamity, Peter Sagan will claim his seventh Green Jersey on the Champs-Elysees. He's never actually won the sprint on this final day, but has finished second twice, including in 2012 when the stage last started in Rambouillet. As a sprinter able to handle fatigue better than most, odds of [7.00] look about right, and he could usurp the big three for a mini-surprise here.
A strong case can be made for Alexander Kristoff ([15.00]) too. He's been performing well in the bunch sprints this year - without getting quite close enough to win one - and often does better as the Tour progresses. He won on the Champs-Elysees last year and should be on any short list to repeat.
Others worth noting are Sonny Colbrelli ([40.00]) and Edvald Boasson Hagen ([50.00]). Colbrelli has been ever-present in bunch sprints in the race and cannot be discounted, but preference is for Boasson Hagen, who's had a quiet Tour by his standards but has raced this stage seven times in his career, finishing in the top four on five occasions.
A split-stake on Caleb Ewan and Edvald Boasson Hagen is the call.
What effect will the stage have on the overall markets?
None. The Points Classification was won by Peter Sagan days ago - as predicted - and just required him to make it to Paris unscathed, and General Classification movement is unlikely.
There have been attempts at making something happen in the past. In 1979 Zoetemelk attacked Bernard Hinault in a futile attempt to claim race victory and, in 2005, Alexander Vinokourov gained enough time on Levi Leipheimer to overtake him for a top-five spot, but don't expect anything similar here, meaning my pre-Tour tip of Bernal looks secure.
This is the sprinters' day, and the GC guys will focus on staying out of trouble. And sipping champagne (or White Lightning).
*Odds correct at the time of writing
Back Caleb Ewan @ [3.50]
Back Edvald Boasson Hagen @ [50.00]