This year’s Tour de France feels like it could have, and probably should have, come to a close after the final mountain stage (Stage 18) on Thursday, with all but the green jersey classification signed, sealed and delivered to Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates). Alas, the race sluggishly rolls on towards Paris, and Stage 20 saw the final competitive stage for the GC riders. A 30.8km flat time-trial saw very little change in the general classification – in fact, there was only one insignificant change in the whole of the Top 20. Second and third place on GC were secured by Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz, respectively.
However, it did see Wout van Aert storm to an emphatic stage victory, his second of this year’s Tour. That’s three Tour stages and a second step on the podium in Paris for a team that is going into Paris with just 4 riders left.
Tour de France 2021 has already seen so much action, it would be easy to forget that this race only began two weeks ago. Each stage has had a unique story: there have been crashes galore, emotions by the truckload, and yesterday even witnessed history being made. But finally Stage 14 from Carcassonne to Quillan provided us with a conventional (and slightly dull) day in the saddle – and it almost felt like a relief!
Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) shrewdly claimed the stage victory after attacking his breakaway companions on the penultimate descent of the day and steadily building an insurmountable lead. Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sergio Higuita (EF Education-Nippo) rounded out the day’s podium. There was also a small shuffle in the general classification as Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) moves up from eighth to second place overall. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) remains untouchable in the maillot jaune.
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.