Mark Cavendish’s bid to set a brand new report of 35 stage wins within the Tour de France was denied – as Wout van Aert gained the ultimate stage of the 2021 Tour.
Cavendish struggled to seek out house and couldn’t come previous Van Aert within the ultimate few metres of the bunch dash on Paris’ Champs-Elysees.
However the 36-year-old had already gained 4 levels this yr to equal the Tour report of 34 set by Eddy Merckx.
Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar of UAE-Group Emirates gained the general yellow jersey.
Cavendish might have missed out on the prospect to take sole possession of the stage wins report, however to have drawn equal with Belgian legend Merckx is an astonishing achievement, given he had struggled for type for a number of seasons and feared final yr his profession was over.
He was solely referred to as up by Deceuninck Fast-Step as a late alternative for injured Irish sprinter Sam Bennett.
However, a full 5 years after his earlier Tour stage win, his sprinting dominance earned him his second Tour de France inexperienced jersey, awarded to the winner of the factors classification.
Historical past carried out the onerous manner
Cavendish was by no means alleged to be at this Tour. It is just 9 months since he proclaimed, by means of tears, the possible finish of his profession following a tough one-day race final yr.
He has battled the Epstein-Barr virus, a number of heavy crashes and despair, all since his final victory on the Tour 5 years in the past for Dimension Knowledge. Again then he gained 4 levels early within the race in what was seen as a swansong.
After signing a shock one-year take care of Belgian one-day and sprinting specialists Deceuninck-Fast Step, the workforce had been agency on Cavendish not being a part of their Tour plans.
However a long-term damage to their younger Dutch expertise Fabio Jakobsen – who suffered severe head accidents in a horror crash on the 2020 Tour of Poland – and a last-minute knee damage for final yr’s inexperienced jersey winner Bennett left the workforce and its characterful proprietor Patrick Lefevere with few choices.
In some ways, Lefereve and Cavendish are kindred spirits – outspoken, captivated with their craft and identified to inform journalists how they really feel if they’ve overstepped the mark with questions.
However Cavendish can be fiercely loyal, particularly to his workforce. He speaks of Danish rider Michael Morkov as “the anti-me” due to his unflustered, calm manner. And likewise of the category of team-mates at Fast-Step who’ve led him out for his dash victories.
Cavendish mentioned final week he has “no actual sentiment both manner” concerning the report – will he again subsequent yr to attempt to prolong it?
President Pogacar takes the plaudits
Pogacar has dominated this Tour. Unchallenged within the mountains, he blew away the remainder within the first time trial on stage 5.
The 22-year-old didn’t as soon as look troubled by the tempo of the race, or his rivals.
That is the polar reverse from final yr, when he overhauled countryman Primoz Roglic of Jumbo-Visma on the penultimate stage’s time trial to win by greater than a minute after Roglic had dominated as much as that time.
However the manner of Pogacar has modified this time round – from a younger, respectful rider disbelieving of his personal achievements, to at least one who’s glad to make some extent of rivals’ kidology on the climbs, by aggressively punching the air and pointedly smiling in his rivals’ path, in the identical manner different legendary riders did of their pomp.
He mentioned: “Unimaginable, I did not [ever] dream about this – it is one thing past a dream.
“Laborious to inform which [win is] extra particular. Final yr there was no strain, and I wasn’t able to take the win – [I would have been] proud of second, and it ended with me successful.
“This yr already I had yellow from the primary week – actually completely different. However pleased with each.”
Omi, Opi & quite a lot of controversy
Pogacar might have been unmatched, however the reality the French police have been concerned twice tells you this Tour has been an eventful one.
Day one noticed a horrible crash: a fan holding a cardboard signal wishing her grandparents properly prompted a number of accidents and abandonments after she stood within the highway together with her again to the oncoming peloton to make sure prime TV publicity.
Organisers ASO introduced they’d start authorized proceedings towards her, and she or he was subsequently arrested by police, though each later dropped any motion, with the organisers hoping classes will likely be realized in future.
4-time winner Chris Froome suffered a nasty crash on the identical stage, struggling to stroll as he was helped again to his toes – a worrying sight given his two years of restoration from a close to career-ending crash in 2019.
He was already resigned to not being aggressive at this yr’s race, regardless of a multi-million pound take care of Israel Begin Up Nation, however it was encouraging to see him at the very least end such a punishing three-week Tour.
The race was additionally marred by a number of of Pogacar’s rivals crashing, resulting in the abandonment of Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic and Geraint Thomas using with a shoulder dislocation sustained on stage three.
Off the bike, Group Bahrain-Victorious’ lodge was raided by police late within the race following allegations over doping.
The workforce’s rider Matej Mohoric mentioned after successful on stage 19: “On the finish of the day I’ve nothing to cover.”
Who gained what? And who gained nothing
For a rider so younger, and so good within the mountains, it’s not stunning to see Pogacar declare the polka dot king of the mountains jersey, and the white younger rider’s jersey.
The one remaining one – the inexperienced factors jersey – went to Cavendish for his stage wins and intermediate efforts.
Though hard-earned, it’s value noting lots of his rivals deserted the race by means of damage, similar to Lotto-Soudal’s Caleb Ewan and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan.
Different dash favourites, similar to France’s Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ and Nacer Bouhanni of Arkea-Samsic, had been eradicated after lacking the time restrict on mountain levels.
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