Tour de France winds down with socially-distanced finale

·2-min read

By Johnny Cotton and Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - The Tour de France drew to a low-key close on Sunday as riders in the world's greatest cycling race paraded before a sparse Champs Elysees finish-line crowd depleted by social distancing.

For the race's 21st and final stage, coronavirus restrictions limited spectator numbers at the finish to 5,000, significantly lower than previous turnouts.

But the atmosphere on the French capital's most famous avenue remained festive, with the thinned-out spectators punctuated by Slovenian flags to honour winner Tadej Pogacar.

Few minded a downbeat finish after the dramatic upset of the Tour's penultimate day - when 21-year-old Pogacar seized the overall lead from compatriot Primoz Roglic with a time-trial surge that surprised even himself.

"All the Slovenians who want to be here are here," said Dehan Silar, a cycling fan who flew in from Ljubljana earlier on Sunday for the finale. "We are here with our hearts."

As the global pandemic forced the cancellation of major sporting events, organisers agreed to a two-month postponement of the Tour, initially scheduled to start in June. Fans were barred outright from finish lines on earlier stages in French regions with high COVID-19 infection rates.

"It's a bit of a shame for the cyclists because there are fewer people, but for us it means we can see better," said one Parisian spectator who gave his name as Jean.

Besides a competitive final sprint, with no bearing on overall race leadership, the final ride into Paris has for years been a largely processional end to the contest, which this year followed a 3,484-kilometre (2,165 mile) course over three weeks.

(Reporting by John Cotton and Julien Pretot; writing by Laurence Frost; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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