In a summer chock full of sport, the 2021 Tour de France remained one of the premier events in the calendar. 228 teams set out from Brest in late June, and after 21 stages that covered 3414.4km and witnessed plenty of riders leave the race early following crashes or to prepare for the upcoming Olympics, Tadej Pogačar defended his title won on the final day last year with a dominant ride. The Classifications finished as such:


General Classification:

  1. Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) – UAE Team Emirates – 82h 56′ 36″
  2. Jonas Vingegaard (Denmark) – Team Jumbo–Visma   + 05′ 20″
  3. Richard Carapaz (Ecuador) – Ineos Grenadiers   + 07′ 03″

Points Classification:

  1. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) – Deceuninck–Quick-Step – 337 points
  2. Michael Matthews (Australia) – Team BikeExchange – 291 points
  3. Sonny Colbrelli (Italy) – Team Bahrain Victorious – 227 points

Mountains Classification:

  1. Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) – UAE Team Emirates – 107 points
  2. Wout Poels (Netherlands) – Team Bahrain Victorious – 88 points
  3. Jonas Vingegaard (Denmark) – Team Jumbo–Visma – 82 points

Young Rider Classification:

  1. Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) – UAE Team Emirates – 82h 56′ 36″
  2. Jonas Vingegaard (Denmark) – Team Jumbo–Visma   + 05′ 20″
  3. David Gaudu (France) – Groupama–FDJ + 21′ 50″

Teams Classification:

  1. Team Bahrain Victorious – 249h 16′ 47″
  2. EF Education–Nippo + 19′ 12″
  3. Team Jumbo–Visma + 1h 11′ 35″

feat cycling tour de france 2021 podium tadej pogacar richard carapaz jonas vingegaardFrom strength to strength

Where else could I start my look back at the Tour, other than with it’s maillot jaune. Tadej Pogačar only took the yellow jersey on the final day of actual racing in 2020, but in this edition he was dominant, taking and holding the white jersey for best young rider from the first stage to the last, while he took the yellow jersey on Stage 8 and within just 2 stages had opened up an unassailable lead of over 5 minutes over his nearest contenders on GC.

Of course, he did benefit from some of those who were expected to be his closest rivals out of contention within days due to injuries picked up in the early crashes, while Jonas Vingegaard lost most of his time when he was still riding as a domestique for Primož Roglič before being given the leadership, but he was still incredibly strong, dropping Richard Carapaz with ease with over 30km still remaining on Stage 8, while rarely looking troubled when anyone else attacked.

He may only be 22, but he is already one of the strongest climbers in the peloton and an elite time triallist. He will certainly face tougher tests than he did this year, but the idea of him matching—or perhaps even beating—the current record of 5 Tour de France victories seems a possibility.

The Manx Missile flies again

If you asked someone who the greatest sprinter in road cycling was, Many would say Mark Cavendish. The Manx Missile looked odds on to break Eddie Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins.

Then things started going wrong. He was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus in 2017, which left him below his best for a couple of years, while he left the 2017 Tour early due to injury following a crash with Peter Sagan. Then in 2018, his race once again finished prematurely as he missed the time cut on Stage 11. As time went on, it looked like we had seen the last of Cav at a Grand Tour.

And then came the unlikeliest of chances. A late injury to last year’s green jersey winner Sam Bennett ruled him out, and with Fabio Jakobsen unavailable, Cavendish was brought into the Deceuninck–Quick-Step line-up at the eleventh hour. Of course, Deceuninck–Quick-Step are arguably the best team out there when it comes to focusing on the green jersey, with incredible work throughout the stages and strong lead-outs from Michael Mørkøv, and it didn’t take long for Cav to start repaying their efforts, with a win on Stage 4, the second sprint stage of the race. The day before had seen Caleb Ewan leave the race following a crash, and usual green jersey contender Peter Sagan never really looked in the running this year, but you would question if even Ewan could have stopped Cav as he grew in confidence, winning at Châteauroux (the site of his first Tour de France stage) and then again in Valence before finally equalling Eddie Merckx’s record in Carcassonne.

With his dominance in the sprints, the only worry was that he would miss the cut-off in the mountains, always a weakness for him, but something that he was thoroughly unprepared for this year due to the late call-up. And it’s safe to say that some of the other sprint teams did everything they could to make his job harder, refusing to form the classic sprinter grupettos. And this led to the incredible scenes of him being paced and shielded up the mountains—including a double climb of Mont Ventoux—by the majority of his team, ensuring that he never missed the cut-off, while some of his fellow sprinters were less successful.

cycling tour de france 2021 mark cavendish julian alaphilippe deceuninck-quickstep team

And so it seemed like destiny that we reached the Champs-Élysées with Cav knowing that his next stage win would see him set a new record But this year’s race saw the finish line slightly higher up the road following a slight incline, and when Cav took a risk by going off Mørkøv’s wheel early, he found himself boxed in and the win went to the incredible Wout van Aert. But make no mistake, Cav remained the hero of the Tour, a green jersey winner at the Tour 10 years after his last win on the classification, and an inspiration to everyone to never give up.

But now, not even a week after the Tour has ended, the thoughts must already be turning to next year. It was certainly clear that Cav felt early in the race that this would be his last Tour, but with Bennett expected to return to Bora–Hansgrohe, it feels like the opportunity may be there for one last ride from Cav. And what a race that would be, with Cav and Bennett going toe to toe on each sprint stage. It’s safe to imagine that if Cav set the new record, he would be doing so by a matter of millimetres!

I for one hope that we get to see one more ride from Cav to see him finish the job. But if this is it, I will be thankful for the memories, and await his name being announced on the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist.

Watch this space

cycling tour de france 2021 wout van aert jnas vingegaardEvery year, the Grand Tours tend to throw up one or two names that fans should keep an eye on going forward. While Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel enhanced their reputations on this tour, the name who really stood out by the end was that of Team Jumbo–Visma’s young Dane Jonas Vingegaard.

While you would have expected Richard Carapaz to be the greatest threat to Tadej Pogačar, it was in fact Vingegaard who proved the more dangerous, looking much more comfortable sticking with the Slovenian, while actually dropping his rivals towards the summit of Mont Ventoux. And even more important, he’s another top tier time triallist, which will give him the chance to compete among the very best on GC. Beating Carapaz by over 90 seconds is impressive enough, but his 5 minute gap to Pogačar came mainly from the early stages, which saw him riding as a domestique for the injured Primož Roglič. Had the team immediately switched the leadership to him, who knows how things could have gone?

This is only his second Grand Tour, but things are looking very positive for him, and with a team as strong as Team Jumbo–Visma, with domestiques like Sepp Kuss, Tony Martin, van Aert and George Bennett, it’s just a matter of time before he is given the chance to lead a Grand Tour from Stage 1. Don’t expect it to be too long until we see him on the top step of a Grand Tour podium.

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