Tour de France 2021 – Wout van Aert wins as Mark Cavendish denied outright record on Champs-Elysees
There was no fairytale ending to Cavendish’s stunning comeback story, with Van Aert leading from the front to take a memorable win. Cavendish leaves the 2021 Tour with a share of the all-time record of stage wins (34) and the green jersey. Meanwhile, Tadej Pogacar ticked off the day without incident as he claimed a second yellow jersey at the age of just 22.
‘Boxed in!’ – Cavendish frustrated as Van Aert wins Stage 21
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) claimed victory on the Champs-Elysees as Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck–QuickStep) was denied the outright record for stage wins at the Tour de France.
Cavendish found himself boxed in during a cagey finale as Van Aert joined an exclusive group of riders who have won a mountain stage, time trial and sprint stage at the same Tour.
The Brit, 36, lost contact with his leadout train within the final kilometre of the race and without Michael Morkov to guide him to the line he seemed unable to produce the kind of pure straight-line speed of which he was once capable. Van Aert, by contrast, was perfectly shepherded through the finale by teammate Mike Teunissen.
When Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin Fenix) cut marginally across him, Cavendish was forced to check his speed ever so slightly. Philipsen was fast enough to bag second on the stage, but in truth – even without the deviation – Van Aert was too strong and too fast for either of them to beat.
'This will spur him on' - Wiggins backs Cav to return and 'go for record'
Cavendish, who was only called up to the Tour at the eleventh hour, can console himself with four memorable wins that saw him tie Eddy Merckx’s all-time record (34) and clinch the green jersey. It is the second time he has won the maillot vert, the first coming over a decade ago.
Van Aert, meanwhile, has joined a truly exclusive club at the Tour despite starting the race a little bit under the weather after appendix surgery.
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) came home safely to secure his second yellow jersey, with the Slovenian topping the general classification by 5’20”. Earlier in Sunday's stage, he held up the race number of Primoz Roglic, his compatriot and the rider expected to be his biggest rival for the maillot jaune until he crashed out of the race.
A faultless final stage saw Pogacar secure overall victories in the king of the mountains and youth classifications also. As is traditional, there was a small breakaway on the Champs-Elysees, or rather a couple of small breakaways that each managed a couple of laps in the lead. The race's most aggressive rider, Frank Bonnamour, also tried a bridging move in the final 20km but by that point the speed of the peloton was far too great for him to stand any chance of taking more than a pat on the head from his DS.
Speaking post-race, Van Aert gave reporters a few words despite having a plane to catch.
"It's been such a roller-coaster and to finish off with a win like this is beyond my expectations," he said.
"I guess I have put myself in trouble because I have to catch a flight tonight (to the Olympics) and all these interviews will take a while, I'll have to see if I can get there but I'm definitely not sorry that I went for it today. A victory like this is priceless, so thanks to my incredible small team."
UAE celebrate Pogacar’s coronation
Pogacar gave the traditional winner's speech from the podium ceremony.
"I did not write a speech for my first Tour de France history. I did not know how to write it," he said.
"This year I said I was going to speak from the heart. Thank you everybody for coming here to support us cyclists over the three weeks. To the French public and the cycling fans, it was just so fantastic racing on an amazing parcours of the Tour this year.
"Coming here with such a fantastic UAE Team Emirates, I cannot describe how happy I am to be part of this family. It melts my heart. They were with me every day all year preparing for the Tour. I am super happy and proud to be part of this team.
"Thank you everybody. It was a difficult year with Covid. I really hope next year we come here without the masks. The organisers kept us safe and sound."
Pogacar: ‘I cannot describe how happy I am’
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