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The Tour de France, it wasn't, despite the commentators' constant evocation of “La Grande Boucle”. And the concrete exteriors of Whitehall don't have quite the same allure as the Champs Élysées. But, across from Downing Street, there was a grandstand finish to the Tour of Britain to captivate even the most disinterested tourist on Sunday afternoon.
Given that the decision on the 2012 Olympic Games will come next July, however, it's a remote hope that a resuscitated five-day Brit-Tour will do much to persuade the International Olympic Committee that the cycle road race in the Olympics-after-next should take place in Westminster, rather than Ile de France.
In weather conditions on Sunday more fitting to the Coté d'Azur, the atmosphere before the London race was reminiscent of the “Criteriums” - the Sunday afternoon events in French provincial towns that populate the post-Tour de France calendar - and so relaxed that British champion Roger Hammond was still doing an interview ten minutes before the start, and one of the Irish riders, David O'Loughlin sat chatting to London relatives.
That festive feeling lasted four of the 45 one-mile laps, until the riders got down to business. Then, while the London Eye - never looking more like a giant front wheel - revolved lazily in the background, the peloton upped the pace. As long as he stayed in touch, Colombia's Mauricio Ardila, who had won two of the four previous stages, was going to win the race overall. This he duly did.
Britain's Olympic champion, Bradley Wiggins made a long break for home, only to be caught with a lap to go. Crossing the line first was Enrico Degano of Italy and the Barloworld team, in one hour, 27min 30sec. Wiggins wheeled home a minute behind, to just as much applause.
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