Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) sprinted to victory on the Champs-Elysees as Chris Froome sealed his second Tour de France triumph.
Greipel outsprinted Bryan Coquard (Team Europcar) on the famous avenue, after Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) opened the sprint up, to claim his fourth victory of this year’s race.
Devoid of his lead-out train, due to their abandonments earlier in the race, Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) found himself too far back in the sprint to claim sprint victory.
But fellow Brit Froome ensured a second yellow jersey in three years, crossing arm in arm with his Team Sky team-mates.
On the very wet Parisian roads, which had already seen La Course – won by in-form Anna van der Breggen – littered by crashes, race director Christian Prudhomme quelled any fears of late drama.
After waving the flag to start the day’s racing for the final time, he confirmed to race leader Froome the clock would stop after the first passage of the Champs Elysees finish line.
It meant the teams adopted a safety-first approach until that point, with the rain failing to dampen spirits in the Team Sky camp as Froome chatted to his fellow riders and posed for photographs.
Clad in the team’s black jerseys, but with their blue stripe replaced by a yellow one, Team Sky led the way onto the famous avenue to confirm Froome would be crowned Tour de France champion as long as he finished.
Racing had still not really begun, on the slick roads, as they passed the intermediate sprint point – the sprinters opting to keep their powder dry with the green jersey of Peter Sagan already secure.
Instead, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) chose that opportunity to move forward and escape off the front, prompting Lotto-Soudal to take control of the bunch.
A handful of riders tried to bridge across, with Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida), Florian Vachon (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) and Kenneth van Bilsen (Cofidis) the next to lead the way.
That trio’s attack lasted longer, and with three laps remaining they still had more than 30 seconds on the Lotto-Soudal-led bunch.
The pace ramped up again however, and the gap had been halved by the time they next crossed the finish line, prompting Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) to accelerate.
Froome lost contact at the back due to a mechanical at the same time, caused by an errant takeaway bag getting tangled in his cassette, but he was back on as the peloton took the bell.
Dennis and van Bilsen remained in front for a short while longer, but the pace in the peloton was too fierce as the sprint trains took formation on the final turn around the Arc de Triomphe – Lotto-Soudal momentarily losing control on the front.
Giant-Alpecin were first out of the tunnel and under the flamme rouge, but it was only Kristoff with a lead-out man as he opened out his sprint.
Greipel continued the form he has shown throughout the Tour though, sprinting to a hugely impressive victory despite a late charge from Coquard – who threw his bike for the line so hard he pulled an impromptu wheelie in the process.
Tour de France 2015: stage 21 – result
1) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Soudal – 2.49.41hrs
2) Bryan Coquard (FRA) – Team Europcar – ST
3) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha
4) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – MTN-Qhubeka
5) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ
6) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Etixx-QuickStep
7) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff-Saxo
8) John Degenkolb (GER) – Giant-Alpecin
9) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
10) Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU) – Cannondale-Garmin
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 83.19.15hrs
2) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +1.12
3) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +5.25
4) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +8.36
5) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +9.48
6) Robert Gesink (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo +10.47
7) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Trek Factory Racing +15.14
8) Matthias Frank (SUI) – IAM Cycling +15.39
9) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +16.00
10) Pierre Rolland (FRA) – Team Europcar +17.30