Tour de France 2021: Stage 10 – Cavendish closes in on record that-shall-not-be-named

To paraphrase Gary Lineker: sprinting is a simple game. One hundred and eighty men battle on the roads of France for 190km and at the end, Mark Cavendish always wins. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but if you had told me at the start of the year that Cav would win three stages of the 2021 Tour de France and hold a 59-point lead in the green jersey competition, I would have laughed in your face. Yet here we are. A sensational third stage win for the Manx Missile on Stage 10, following a chaotic run into Valence through blustery crosswinds. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) finishes safely in the bunch, keeping his 2:01 lead over Ben O’Connor (Ag2r) intact and the yellow jersey firmly on his shoulders. 

A normal Tour de France stage?

This year’s Tour has been so completely bonkers, that it is easy to forget what a “normal” stage would look like. There was a sigh of relief from viewers (and probably the peloton too) when a two-man breakaway made up of Hugo Houle (Astana-PremierTech) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) had an easy get-away from the bunch. The duo built a gap of up to 5:35, however their inevitable fate was sealed before they even set off on their escapade for the day. 


The #couchpeloton settled in for the long haul as the action eased in the real peloton on the road.


Luke’s Tour de Hallway entertained the masses during the quieter periods of the stage. [Why the coffee cart was not involved in this, I have NO idea – seems like a missed opportunity – ed

The Battle for the Green Jersey

Houle and Van der Sande swept up the maximum intermediate sprint points while in the break. However, as the peloton approached the 3km climb to the sprint, Team Bike-Exchange ramped up the pace in an attempt to put Cav under pressure. Though presumably Simon PHILIP Yates was hanging at the back of the peloton still…

As the bunch ascended the surprisingly steep ramp to the sprint, a gap formed in the group, and Cav was caught behind. Recent climbing extraordinaire, Sonny Colbrelli, pulled out of his trick bag a strong sprint which would hold off BEX’s Michael Matthews – not bad for a mountain man. However, the results still saw Matthews closing in on Cavendish in the sprinters competition – the Manxman only holding a 25-point advantage over the Australian at this point. The competition was really hotting up!

Jumbo-Visma and INEOS at a Loss

If ever there was a more telling image of things not going quite to plan for the two high-profile teams, it would be seeing multiple INEOS Grenadiers and JumboBees caught up in a crash at the back of the peloton far before the stage began to heat up in the crosswinds.


There has been almost a decade of INEOS-Grenadier/Team Sky control of the Tour de France, and last year Jumbo-Visma were entirely dominant from day one to that pivotal individual time trial on Stage 20. It feels most uncharacteristic and almost quite sad (to me at least!) to see these two giants of the peloton completely at a loss at the grandest spectacle of the cycling season.

Fortunately, all who were caught up in the incident got back up and peddled on – Richie Porte seemingly was the rider most affected.

Colbrelli Catastrophe

It was the final 30km and the wind began to blow a hooley. The break of the day was caught, and just when the pressure started to be applied by Deceuninck-QuickStep at the head of the peloton Colbrelli punctured – worst possible timing!


A quick bike change, a short chase, must gesticulating, and Colbrelli got back to the pack, seemingly powered by fury. With only one Bahrain Victorious teammate in support though, what matches had he burnt before the final sprint…

EF ducks in a row

In possibly the most surprising event of the 2021 Tour de France thus far, as the peloton navigated their way through the roads to Valence, with the ever changing direction and threat of cross-winds at any moment through the open sunflower fields, EF Education Nippo had their entire team on the front! This is not a drill!


Some might say this was to keep Rigoberto Uran safe, or to even try and gain him an advantage over GC rivals. I say this was EF trying to claw back some time on teammate Lachlan Morton who is currently riding the Tour route ahead of the peloton – and doing it very quickly. 

Exhausting Echelons

The run-in to the closing kilometers was mostly downhill. With a high pace, and multiple teams looking to utilise the ever-changing wind direction to create echelons, the final 30km felt extremely chaotic after what had been a relatively calm day. At one point, Pogacar got caught behind a split in the peloton. 

The Wolfpack

QuickStep had attempted to put the hammer down in the winds to cause destruction in their wake on several occasions, however to no avail. They did, however, reach the final 3km relatively unscathed and proceeded to produce a truly world-class leadout for their main man, Mark Cavendish. 

Mattia Cattaneo started the train off, he upped the tempo and brought QuickStep up  to dominate at the front of the peloton. He then handed the baton to world champion Julian Alaphilippe. It is a truly spectacular feature of cycling to see the current best rider in the world still playing a crucial role for his teammates.

Kasper Asgreen was next to take up the pace making. A phenomenal shift from the Dane set up Davide Ballerini and Michael Morkov perfectly as they flew under the flamme rouge.

Morkov delivered Cavendish flawlessly with 150m to go. The Manx Missile launched his sprint and held off his charging rivals, Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Jasper Philippsen (Alpecin-Fenix).


None of this would be possible without the unparalleled team that Mark Cavendish has around him. As he demonstrates so clearly in his post-race celebrations, and openly admits in his soul-stirring post-race interviews, these victories should be owed entirely to The Wolfpack. 

The final word


Stage 9 Top 5

1 Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 4:14:07

2 Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) same time

3 Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) s/t

4 Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic) s/t

5 Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) s/t

General Classification Top 10

1 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 38:25:17

2 Ben O’Connor (Ag2r Citroen Team) +2:01

3 Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) +5:18

4 Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:32

5 Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) +5:33

6 Enric Mas (Movistar) +5:47

7 Wilco Kelderman (Bora-hansgrohe) +5:58

8 Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Premier Tech) +6:12

9 Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) +7:02

10 David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) +7:22

All the Jerseys

Leaders jersey : Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)

Points jersey: Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step)

KOM jersey : Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic)

Best young rider jersey : Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates)

Most combative rider : Hugo Houle (Astana Premier-Tech)

For full stage review, go to cyclingnews

Official Tour de France website is here

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