Tour de France 2021: Stage 4 – Mark Cavendish turns back time

Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck- Quick Step) screamed across the line in Fougeres, arms aloft, to claim victory on Stage 4 of the Tour de France from Arkea Samsic’s Nacer Bouhanni and Jasper Philippsen (Alpecin Fenix). Not only does that bland statement fail to capture the whole Cav experience (oh yes, there will be tears!!!), it also does no justice whatsoever to the edge-of-the-seat excitement of the finale (oh yes, there will be screaming!!!) Let’s get into it.

The protest

The stage started in Redon set for a shortish 150km jaunt to the finish in Fougeres, scene of a Cavendish victory in 2015. A planned one-minute rider protest was supposed to happen at kilometre zero. Some teams were not keen, but Andre Greipel (Israel Start Up Nation) came to front and forced them to stop. I’m voting for Andre as Patron of the peloton.

It’s times like these that I wonder if the teams and riders will ever be able to work together to bring about the changes they wish to see.

The break

The peloton wanted nothing more than an easy sprint stage and to get to the finish without further stress and crashes. Lotto Soudal’s Brent Van Moer attacked off the front first, soon to be joined by Pierre-Luc Perichon of Cofidis. Riders, fans and team social media accounts settled in for a stage ending in a sprint. Whoever is running social media for The Mighty ‘Dis ™ deserves plaudits for the CouCou gif. The inhabitants of VeloVoices Towers were much amused.

The kilometres ticked down, the gap was maintained and fans were treated to gorgeous shots of Breton countryside, discussions on chateaux, tractor field art and windmills with donkeys!  I think the GCN+ strapline just about sums it up.

Those watching with GCN found out that King Kelly is a dab hand at triple-cooked frites and that… [What? GCN couldn’t spring for separate rooms???? For a legend … and Brian – ed]

The intermediate sprint saw Michael Morkov deliver Cav perfectly to take the peloton bunch sprint.

With 20km to go the pair out front held onto a slim one-minute advantage. It looked like the sprinter teams had it all under control and Cav fans were in a happy state of nervousness

The Finale

And THEN, with 13.6km to go Brent Van Moer flew solo.

He has form in holding marauding sprint teams at bay, we saw him grab a fantastic victory on the opening stage of the Dauphine this year.

Brent’s teammate Jasper De Buyst rode an absolute blinder a s a major disrupter to the sprint teams efforts, they gave their man in front every chance to maintain his precious seconds. Under the flamme rouge and he was still holding an advantage. The sprint teams were now in full flight and Twitter was a whole screaming match.

Pretty sure this was a lot of us

It wasn’t to be, Brent was caught with 200m to go


I can’t really believe I am writing this, because it still feels like a dream of Disney fairy-tale proportions. It is something I thought I would never write about again. So let me do it justice: The Manx Missile took his 31st victory at the Tour de France, five years after his last, and 13 years after his first.

Let that sink in.

Think about the completely different eras of sprinters he has faced.

It’s mind-blowing.

He had to work for this victory. I have waxed lyrical many times about the prowess and skill of Michael Morkov, but Cav was not dropped off at the perfect moment. No, he had to improvise because the Quicksteppers had to throw all their resources to bring Van Moer back. Watch the overhead and see him weave his way to the line after Tim Merlier (Alpecin Fenix) leads out Jasper Philipsen. There is a particularly heartstopping moment where he has to avoid the young Dutchman who is travelling backward through the melee. Once he has Philipsen in his sight, he zooms past and holds off a fast-finishing Nacer Bouhanni.

That improvisation is just classic Cav and I have to agree with John here.

I was ecstatic with the win, but it also gave him the Green Jersey. WHAT A DAY


The emotion

Sheer release over the line

That smile

I refuse to believe anyone could watch his post race interview without a lump in their throat and leaking eyes.

Because you see, it’s not just the win or the manner of its taking. It’s because this man has overcome so much in recent years – Epstein-Barr virus, his struggles with depression, the fact he could not find a team and thought his career was over at Gent Wevelgem last year.

But through it all, some little spark, that essential piece of Mark Cavendish just would not give up. We saw him fight at the Tour of Turkey and in Belgium, and now we see here on the stage he graced for so many years. The VeloVoices have often said we always want a rider to retire on his own terms, not to be forced into it. It is the fairy-tale ending we all wanted.

Let’s all get a little emotional again as we read the tweets from his teammates, contemporaries and fans.

Get the tissues ready

The peloton past and present

Love this snap with Adam Blythe

Our very own Luke had quite the day…

Cav has updated his palmares once this Tour de France.

Dare we hope for more?

A word for Brent Van Moer

I can’t finish this write-up without a word for the rider that so very nearly pulled off an incredible solo victory the man who Twitter fans were also cheering their hardest for.

After the loss of Caleb Ewan, Lotto Soudal had to reset their Tour de France goals to breakaway chances.

He must have been so disappointed but chapeau for this show of sportsmanship

Final Word


Stage 4 Top 5

1 Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck Quick Step) 3:20:17

2 Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic) same time

3 Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) s.t

4 Michael Matthews (Bike Exchange) s.t

5 Peter Sagan (BORA hansgrohe) s.t

General Classification Top 10

1 Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 16:19:10

2 Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) +0:08

3 Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) +0:31

4 Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) same time

5 Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0:38

6 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +0:39

7 Enric Mas Nicolau (Movistar Team) +0:40

8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic

9 Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) +0:45

10 Sergio Higuita Garcia (EF Education-Nippo)

All the Jerseys

Leaders jersey : Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)

Points jersey : Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step)

KOM jersey : Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgroghe)

Best young rider jersey : Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates)

For full stage review, go to cyclingnews

Official Tour de France website is here

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