After a quiet opening three stages it was probably a little naive of us to be placing our hopes and dreams of some grand tour excitement and drama on Stage 4‘s flat (ish! for La Vuelta) profile. Would there be echelons? No – no matter how many times a certain commentator mentioned them. Would we see some GC guys have a little dig on the final small, yet steep-ish, ramp (I told you, it was flat-ish!)? No. Would we indeed get any action? No. What did unravel was a classic GT sprinters stage – the breakaway, the catch, the bunch finish. But, come the end of the stage there wasn’t an unhappy cycling fan in the universe, thanks to a strong comeback win by Deceuninck QuickStep’s Fabio Jakobsen! A tumble in the closing kilometres for Rein Taaramae while looking resplendent in the red jersey, meant that he finished some time behind the bunch, but with his GC lead safely intact, thanks to the 3km rule.
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.
I’ve really enjoyed the first 13 years of this Tour de France.
— daniel mcmahon (@cyclingreporter) July 9, 2021