5 things to know about Tour de France

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Associated Press

Posted on July 20, 2013 at 3:35 PM

Updated Saturday, Jul 20 at 3:35 PM

Five things to know as the Tour de France enters its 21st and final stage on Sunday:

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TALANSKY'S TOP 10 TIP — American rider Andrew Talansky predicted in March he could finish in the top 10 at the Tour de France.

After another hard day of climbing on Saturday's penultimate stage, Talansky improved from 12th overnight to 10th, knocking Pole Michal Kwiatkowski down to 11th.

"This is my first Tour and I knew that it would be an entirely different experience to any race I had done before," Talansky told The Associated Press in an email. "I'm very excited with the result."

When he finished in second place at the Paris-Nice stage race behind Froome's Sky teammate Richie Porte, Talansky confidently tipped himself for Top 10 at the Tour.

"I was always quietly confident that if a lot of things lined up and I had some good days, that a result like this was possible," Talansky said. "So it's not a surprise that it happened, but how I got here, cracking in the Pyrenees, getting in a breakaway for third on a stage, and gaining that time back, it was not something I ever could have predicted."

His lasting memory of the 100th Tour will be Thursday's double ascent of L'Alpe d'Huez through hundreds of thousands of screeching fans.

"That day embodied what the Tour de France means to me," Talansky said. "The history, the role that mountain has played in the history of this sport. The crowds were beyond anything I have ever seen or heard before."

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SVEIN TUFT IT OUT — Of all the honors at the Tour de France, coming in last is an undervalued one: That of a survivor. While 28 riders have dropped out, Canada's Svein Tuft has coped with four crashes — one in what he called the hardest stage this year: Friday's Stage 19 in the Alps.

At age 36, he's said to be the oldest Tour rookie since World War II. A far cry from his days as a self-described "hobo", hopping trains or cycling vast distances such as to Alaska with a dog in tow.

As the last of the remaining 170 riders, Tuft finished nearly 4 1/2 hours behind expected Tour winner Chris Froome. According to the race rulebook, only the first 160 riders get monetary prizes — the winner receives $591,000, the 160th $525, and those below get a hearty thank-you-for-competing (though they are eligible for other rewards. Tuft will at least cash in on a share of the $13,000, that his Orica GreenEdge team earned for winning the team time trial, his specialty).

Above all, Tuft seems in it for the experience: The martial-arts specialist — he denies some Internet chatter that he once cage-fought — mused about his Tour. "Maybe it's not my favorite thing, you know, being in crazy crowds and everything," he said. "But for sure, it's an experience I know I'll carry with me for the rest of my life."

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VOIGT KEEPS GOING — If athletes are supposed to slow down as they get older, then someone forgot to tell Jens Voigt.

He's been around so long that when he rode his first Tour, Zinedine Zidane was heading the two goals that led France to victory over Brazil at the World Cup.

That was in 1998 and Voigt is still charging uphill on his trademark breakaways.

Voigt, who turns 42 in September and is easily the oldest rider on the Tour, zoomed up a 10-mile Category 1 ascent of Mont Revard.

"He's a Peter Pan of cycling," his former teammate Bradley McGee said. "He doesn't age. He's an absolute freak."

Voigt has a unique way of staying motivated — he barks orders at himself.

"I remember in the Tour of Germany one year, we were coming up to climb. He was leading on GC but there were eight or nine climbing specialists who were snapping around looking for his leader's jersey," McGee said. "He was riding along just talking to himself, just saying: 'Yes Jensie! You are strong enough Jensie! You can do this Jensie! You can do this!' He's talking to himself in the third person, and was absolutely freaking the hell out of the whole group."

Voigt slowed down when he reached the foot of the Tour's final climb up to Annecy-Semnoz, and was caught by Froome's yellow jersey group with about eight kilometers to go.

With six children at home waiting for him, Voigt does not fancy doing it all again next year.

"I'm almost sure that this was my last Tour," he said.

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CONTADOR'S COLLAPSE: Alberto Contador spent most of the Tour de France trying to catch Froome, only to end up off the podium altogether.

The two-time former champion, who was stripped of his third title in 2010 for doping, was dropped on the day's final climb.

After three weeks of hard slog in often brutal heat, up tortuous climbs and down treacherously fast descents, he slipped from second place to fourth in the blink of an eye.

Colombian climber Nairo Quintana jumped up from third to take second place and Joaquin Rodriguez took third.

Contador placed seventh in the stage, coming in more than two minutes behind Quintana — whose great day just got better.

As well as holding the white jersey for best young rider, Quintana also won the best climber's red-and-white polka-dot jersey.

On a hectic day, the top 10 shakeup also saw Rodriquez move up from fifth, while Contador's Saxo-Tinkoff teammate Roman Kreuziger slipped from fourth to fifth, and Spaniard Alejandro Valverde climbed from ninth to eighth.

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GLITTERING FINALE: The 100th Tour de France will end in spectacular style.

Chris Froome will be decked out in a special sequin yellow jersey that will glitter in the dark as thousands of fans cheer him on along the Champs-Elysees — Paris' famed, tree-lined avenue.

The first night-time finish gives Froome a chance to glow that little bit extra when he becomes the second Brit to win the showcase race following Bradley Wiggins' success last year.

In another novel twist, Froome and five-time champions Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain will all receive a special yellow jersey with their name on it.

Organizers have also planned a 45-minute sound, light and picture show after the stage. The images will be beamed by 100 TV channels to 190 countries.

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Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this report.

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