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.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) lives to wear the maillot jaune for another day, while Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) reigned supreme in the Tour de France Stage 5 individual time trial. Having waited until the last possible moment in 2020 to claim the yellow jersey by beating Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) in the final ITT in the opening salvo of the Pog/Rog rivalry, it appears Pog is taking no prisoners in his bid to stand atop the Paris podium for the second year running. A relatively flat course *should* have made for an unexciting time trial, however, it would seem the word “boring” is not in this year’s Tour de France vocabulary. By the finish, it was only MvdP who ended the day in the same position as he started it – the rest of the GC Top 10 moved up, moved down, moved all around.
Stage 2 of Tour de France 2021 was thankfully less chaotic, albeit no less emotional, than the opening stage. After two enormous pile-ups on Stage 1, which regrettably finished four riders’ Tour before it started, there were sore bodies and perhaps nerves aplenty. Julian Alaphilippe started the day in the first maillot jaune of 2021, however the second and final ascent up the Mur-de0Bretagne saw him and other favourites out-Alaphilippe’d by maverick Mathieu van der Poel. A poignant point to the sky on the finish line and a moving post-race interview saw MvdP dedicating his first Tour stage win and his first ever yellow jersey to his late grandfather and Tour legend, Raymond Poulidor.