Home Sports Mark Cavendish pipped by Wout van Aert as Briton denied fairytale finale...

Mark Cavendish pipped by Wout van Aert as Briton denied fairytale finale while Tadej Pogacar seals Tour title


Mark Cavendish of The United Kingdom and Team Deceuninck – Quick-Step Green Points Jersey & Tadej Pogačar of Slovenia and UAE-Team Emirates Yellow Leader Jersey and Polka Dot Mountain Jersey celebrate at the podium during the 108th Tour de France 2021, Stage 21, a 108,4km stage from Chatou to Paris Champs-Élysées / @LeTour / #TDF2021 / on July 18, 2021, in Paris – GETTY IMAGES.

Wout van Aert cement status as the world’s best all-rounder in Paris

Mark Cavendish wins green jersey after four stage wins at Tour

Tadej Pogacar seals back-to-back Tour de France titles

Slovenians also win mountains and youth classifications

The disappointment was plain to see. It was etched all over Mark Cavendish’s face as he crossed the finish line in third Place, his hopes of one final, magical victory on the Champs-Élysées dashed. But it melted away when his wife Peta, positioned just beyond the line, handed over his three children, Delilah, Frey, and Casper. Nobody could stay downcast for long, faced with their children’s unconditional love and pride after what has been, when all is said and done, a great three weeks.

In the end, the fairytale ending was not to be. A 35th Tour de France stage win, which would have lifted him clear of Eddy Merckx and into sole ownership of the record, ultimately eluded Cavendish as he found himself boxed in on the Champs-Elysées, his Deceuninck-Quick-Step lead out for once in disarray, powerless to prevent Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) from completing his extraordinary race. But what a month he had. What a comeback this was.


Four weeks ago, Cavendish would not even be riding in the Tour. Parachuted in for Irishman Sam Bennett at the 11th hour, he ended up taking four stage wins at the age of 36 – his first win at the Tour for five years – as well as the maillot vert, a jersey he had won only once before, back in his pomp a decade ago, the same year he won the road world title. “It’s nice after ten years,” he admitted. “It seems an age ago.”

It was an age ago. It must surely rank as one of the greatest comebacks in any sport, given where Cavendish has been these last few years, the depths to which he sunk, physically and mentally. Victory on the Champs-Elysées would have completed the fairytale. It would have been the money shot, the SPOTY clincher. And it will niggle that, with so many factors in his favor – the glorious weather, the lack of top sprinters left in the field – he and his team finally stumbled. It was uncharacteristic of the self-styled Wolfpack.

Tim’ The Tractor’ Declercq was motoring. Having caught the three-person break of Brent Van Moer, Ide Schelling, and Michael Valgren with 6.3km to go – Geraint Thomas doing Cavendish a solid with a final acceleration from the bunch to bridge to the trio – everyone expected Quick-Step to move to the front and control things. But easier said than done on the bone-shaking cobbles of the Champs-Elysées, with the evening sun blinding the peloton each time they rounded the Tuileries and faced back up towards the Arc de Triomphe.

Wout van Aert – Mark Cavendish pipped by Wout van Aert as Belgian denies Briton fairytale finale in Paris – GETTY IMAGES.

Cavendish was relatively far back in the bunch as they raced past the Louvre for the final time. It looked like his trusty lead-out man, Michael Morkov, might move him up. Then suddenly, Cavendish was on his own, trying to move up the barriers on the left. He had to check his sprint more than once as he struggled to find a gap in the final 100m, eventually coming in third behind the extraordinary Van Aert – who becomes the first man since Bernard Hinault in 1979 to win a mountain stage, a time trial and a sprint in the same Tour – and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix).

Cavendish looked stunned. It was the first bunch sprint at this Tour that he had contested and not won. But he soon composed himself, congratulating his rivals before scooping his children in a tearful embrace.

It must be remembered what Cavendish has been through. His wife gave a glimpse in these pages only last weekend of the toll the last few years of injury and depression took on their relationship and the family, admitting that there was “a long time when she did not recognize the person she was had married”. Thankfully he came out the other side.

The Manxman’s spiky personality is not to everyone’s tastes. His legendary temper, which he has kept in check for most of this race, was on full display on Friday when unhappy with his bike setup, he criticized a team mechanic given to the public at the stage start in Mourenx. Some felt it was a case of the mask slipping. But Cavendish has always been the same. Explosive, combustible, compelling. For better or worse, he wears his heart on his sleeve. “Un grand champion,” to use Merckx’s phrase from last weekend. He will be missed when he is gone.

“It’s an absolute dream to be back here,” he said before leading his children onto the podium, his three-year-old Casper bedecked in a mini green jersey.

“The French public has been incredible the last three weeks. And to get to Paris, the most beautiful boulevard in the world, the Champs-Elysées… it’s an honor just to be here, no matter the result or the jersey I’m wearing. But it is nice to pull on the maillot vert again after a decade.”

“I think my daughter’s been here when she was tiny,” he added. “My last time on the Champs-Elysées was in 2015, I think. For the two others, it’s the first time.”

But will it be the last time? Cavendish has no contract for next year as yet. And it would be hard to top these three weeks. “Let’s see what happens. Let’s see. Let’s enjoy it.”

Pogacar and Van Aert join Cavendish in Eddy Merckx comparisons

by Tom Cary, in Paris

Tadej Pogacar denied being the new Eddy Merckx on Sunday night after becoming the youngest rider ever to win the Tour de France twice.

The Slovenian, just 22, made it through the final stage from Chatou to Paris with a minimum of fuss, just as he did the 20 other locations, to win by 5:20 from Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and by 7:03 from Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers).

The imperious manner of Pogacar’s victory was a far cry from the impossibly dramatic way in which he won his first maillot Jaune ten short months ago when he produced a time trial for the ages to usurp compatriot Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) on the final day of the general classification battle. This time, a combination of crashes with rivals and his brilliance made the result a formality long before the race reached the Champs-Elysées.

“I cannot express my feelings of how happy I am,” Pogacar said in his victory speech, his yellow jersey lit up in the evening sunshine. “With the people I have around me… it’s another level. I will remain motivated in the coming years, but what comes next will come next… I’m not stressed about it. “It’s quite different. Last year, I felt strong, incredible emotions. I’m again here this year, standing atop the podium, but the feelings are quite different.”

Pogacar celebrates his Tour victory – SHUTTERSTOCK.

Merckx, who won five Tour de France titles in an unmatched career, predicted last week that Pogacar would be the man to break his record. But the Slovenian played down that prospect.

“The new Cannibal? I don’t like to compare myself to other riders. Each rider has his style and personality. Every rider is unique. I don’t think there is anything left. I enjoy life, work hard, and love cycling – the most important things. Hopefully, we can come back next year without masks.”

Pogacar was not the only rider compared to Merckx. Van Aert – who rushed through his press conference to make his flight to Tokyo, where he said he would try to win both the road race and the time trial, also played down comparisons. After denying Cavendish a fairytale finale in Paris, Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) was also asked whether he was the new Eddy, having emulated his compatriot by winning a time trial, a mountain stage, and a bunch sprint in the same Tour.

“I guess it’s the same as when journalists asked Cavendish when he got to 34 [stage wins],” he said. “It’s impossible [to match Merckx]. He won the GC five times and every race in cycling. I’m just a little cyclist compared with Eddy.”

05:22 pm

Merckx-like Pogacar seals back-to-back Tour de France titles.

Having completed the stage safely, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) has sealed his short career’s second Tour de France title. It may not have been the most exciting battle in the general classification after the 22-year-old all but put that race to bed on the road to Le Grand-Bornand two weeks ago. Still, it was a victory befitting of a rider mentioned an awful lot lately.

Tadej Pogacar has won three jerseys at the Tour for the second year running – REUTERS.

Pogacar has done something Eddy Merckx did not manage to do during his glittering career and won three classification jerseys in his first two appearances at the Tour. At times it looked as if Pogacar was toying with his rivals, particularly in this week’s mountain stages. Little wonder he has been described as a modern-day Cannibal.

It was an excellent coming-of-age performance, too, from

Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), the young Dane who arrived as a support rider for Primoz Roglic, will now leave as the Slovenian’s heir apparent. Anybody paying attention to cycling over the last year will have known his name before the Tour, but few will have understood the depth of his talents. They will now.

Jonas Vingegaard – GETTY IMAGES

A vigorous climber who can hold the wheels of the best in the world and attack, and a rider who can also time trial. Jumbo-Visma will have been hugely disappointed when Roglic abandoned after one crash too many. Still, in Vingegaard, they have unearthed a considerable talent and, possibly, a future grand tour winner.

Richard Carapaz and his Ineos Grenadiers team may feel disappointed having failed to win a single stage. Still, the Ecuadorian was the only rider who consistently stood up to Pogacar, facing the challenge head-on from when the eventual Tour champion attacked the road to Le Grand-Bornand. He fell short and ultimately had to settle for third, but at least he gave it a decent crack. Ultimately, the best climber and the strongest all-around stage cyclist won the race; that’s how the Tour works.

Richard Carapaz and Tadej Pogacar – – GETTY IMAGES

After winning the Giro d’Italia in 2019 and finishing as runner-up at last year’s shortened Vuelta an España to Roglic, Caparaz’s third Place means the 28-year-old has just joined a select group of riders who have taken podium places in all three grand tours.

In addition to taking home his second yellow jersey as the overall winner, Pogacar also won the polka-dots in the mountains classification – a competition often referred to as the ‘king of the mountains – after taking 40 points atop the hors catégorie summit finishes of Col de Portet and Luz Ardiden during stages 17 and 18.

The third jersey Pogacar won was the white jersey as the best young rider. Which needs no explanation; he was not only the best young rider and the best in the mountains but the best overall. It was almost a clean sweep from the prodigiously talented rider, which is either a magnificent achievement or hugely depressing. Still, I’m not here to judge – you can do that in the comments below!

05:21 pm

Paris snatch | Van Aert wins stage 21 at the Tour!

What a rider. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has won the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris to cement his status as the best all-rounder in the world right now; he has won a massive mountain stage, a time trial, and now this, the sprinters’ world championship on the Champs-Élysées. The next stop is Tokyo for the Belgian champion.

Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) takes the second spot while Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step) rolls in at third to seal the double green jersey of his career. Some people may feel that this is disappointing for Cavendish, but he has won four stages at this year’s Tour de France and will take home the maillot vert. He wasn’t even penciled in a month ago to race the Tour.

05:19 pm

1km to go

These riders are flying now. Seconds away from discovering the stage winner.

05:18 pm

2km to go

Cofidis and BikeExhange are riding on the opposite side of the road to Deceuninck-Quick Step and lead them slightly, but it’s marginal.

05:17 pm

3km to go

Nervous times. Can Mark Cavendish win this stage, or will he be denied by Wout van Aert, Jasper Philipsen, or another sprinter?

05:16 pm

4km to go

Mark Cavendish is shifting up the pack after Deceuninck-Quick Step teammate Julian Alaphilippe peels off; his day and Tour did.

05:15 pm

5.5km to go

The speeding peloton goes around the Arc de Triomphe for the final time. It will be a quick downhill run down the back straight. Xandro Meurisse is drilling it on the front for Alpecin-Fenix, who will be hoping Jasper Philipsen can challenge for the stage win today

05:14 pm

6km to go

Nils Politt attacks, but the Bora-Hansgrohe rider who won stage 12, is closed down by Mark Cavendish’s teammate Kasper As Green.

05:13 pm

7km to go | One lap to go

Brent Van Moer, Ide Schelling, and Michael Valgren are hanging in there, but the blue train of Deceuninck-Quick Step is closing in. The man they call El Tractor – that will be Tim Declercq – is pulling hard.

05:09 pm

10km to go

André Greipel’s teammates are getting involved near the front, but the world champion Julian Alaphilippe is now pulling on the show for Deceuninck-Quick Step to rein in Franck Bonnamour. Brent Van Moer, Ide Schelling, and Michael Valgren still lead but dropped to around 15sec.

05:07 pm

11.5km to go

B&B Hotels p/b KTM teammates Franck Bonnamour and Cyril Gautier clip off the front, the Frenchmen doing their best to cause an upset.

05:06 pm

12.5km to go | Two laps to go

Deceuninck-Quick Step, DSM, and Alpecin-Fenix are all riding in the front of the chasing group, measuring their efforts as they wait to reel in the three-person breakaway.

05:04 pm

15km to go

The three-person breakaway is holding onto a narrow lead by its fingertips: just 22sec.

05:00 pm

17.5km to go

Tim Declercq – who else? – is riding on the front of the peloton, which trails the three-person breakaway of Brent Van Moer, Ide Schelling, and Michael Valgren by 24sec.

04:58 pm

20km to go | Three laps to go

Mark Cavendish has Deceuninck-Quick Step teammates surrounding him – Tim Declercq and Julian Alaphilippe are a few wheels forward, while his right-hand men Davide Ballerini and Michael Morkov are in front of him, shielding him from any wind.

04:54 pm

22.5km to go

Sitting and waiting as Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Soudal), Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Michael Valgren (EF Education-Nippo) gain a few seconds on the peloton, but their lead is just 22sec which can disappear in a nanosecond once the sprint trains of Deceuninck-Quick Step, Alpecin-Fenix and DSM kick into action.

04:49 pm

27.5km to go | Five laps to go

André Greipel is spotted riding down the Champs-Élysées, but he has no idea where he is in the group. I’m assuming not at the pointy end of proceedings.

04:47 pm

30km to go

Brent Van Moer, Ide Schelling, and Michael Valgren now lead and have just a few seconds on the peloton as it re-emerges from the tunnel down by the Place de la Concorde.

04:44 pm

32km to go

As the Champs-Élysées drags slightly uphill, a flurry of riders attempts to attack off the front. Still, world champion Julian Alaphilippe is all over every move for his Deceuninck-Quick Step teammate Mark Cavendish.

04:41 pm

34km to go | Five laps to go

Harry Sweeny looks over his left shoulder, the peloton looming close behind. Tadej Pogacar gives the TV cameras the thumbs up, and the French air force flies overhead, letting out plumes of red, white, and blue smoke.

04:38 pm

Cavendish is looking suitable for green.

For Michael Matthews to win the green jersey, he must win this stage and hope Mark Cavendish does not finish in the top seven.

04:36 pm

37.5km to go

As a result of the injection in pace put in by those sprint teams chasing the points at the intermediate, the three-person breakaway’s advantage has dropped to just 22sec.

04:34 pm

40km to go

Mark Cavendish is glued to the wheel of Michael Morkov, his lead-out man and a crucial part in the Deceuninck-Quick Step blue train that repeatedly delivers their sprinters to the line. Cavendish wins the intermediate sprint with the ease of a man at the absolute top of his game.

04:31 pm

42km to go

Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) has replaced Casper Pedersen (DSM) in the three-person break, the Austrian road champion having joined Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) and Harry Sweeny (Lotto-Soudal) up the road. That trio leads by 30sec, nothing for Mark Cavendish et al. to worry about.

04:27 pm

45km to go

Deceuninck-Quick Step is sat up near the front of the peloton, as are BikeExchange will be thinking about the points on offer at the intermediate sprint that comes with 40km of the race remaining. Remember, if Michael Matthews is the only rider who can mathematically beat Mark Cavendish in the points classification, the Briton finishes this stage within the time limit.

04:21 pm

50km to go

A small three-person group clipped off the front. Still, it was marked out by Deceuninck-Quick Step before another three riders – Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo), Casper Pedersen (DSM), and Harry Sweeny (Lotto-Soudal) – counter-attack.

04:17 pm

54.2km to go | Eight laps to go

Tadej Pogacar and his squad of UAE Team Emirates support riders roll over the finishing line for the first of eight times today. Up towards the Arc de Triomphe, round the back of the old monument, then back down the other side of the Champs-Élysées before looping around at the bottom and then re-entering the finishing straight off the Place de la Concorde

04:14 pm

56km to go

Through the Louvre Museum, the peloton goes, as you do, as it inches nearer and nearer to the Champs-Élysées when we will start to see some action as the pace winds up over eight laps.

04:10 pm

Froome – aka Mr. Nice Guy – wins the award.

According to the Tour de France website, Chris Froome has been handed the award for being “the nicest and most polite rider of the Tour de France” by the television crew that broadcasts the race.

“Merci beaucoup, thank you. The support this year has been fantastic out on the roads. Even though I’ve been suffering a lot this Tour, it’s been a pleasure to be here,” Froome politely said before adding that he hoped to return in 2022.

04:04 pm

62.5km to go

Not too far from the Champs-Élysées now, the UAE Team Emirates have moved up to the front of the field, riding information ready to hit the famous old cobbled boulevard where they will, one suspects, show the maillot Jaune off to the waiting fans on what looks like a beautiful afternoon in Paris.

03:56 pm

Where (van) Aert thou?

While much of the pre-stage focus has centered around Mark Cavendish, it is probably worth remembering that others could win today. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), who has won a mountain stage and yesterday’s time trial, would complete the set if he triumphs on the Champs-Élysées later today. Cobbles, a slighter, longer finishing straight – the line has been moved back 300 meters from where Cavendish won his four previous stages in Paris – may play into the hands of the Belgian. Van Aert may, however, struggle, given that half of his team has already gone home.

Wout van Aert fans – GETTY IMAGES

03:42 pm

75km to go

Plenty of riders are still chatting away in the peloton as it inches around Versailles. Deceuninck-Quick Step has moved their riders towards the head of the pack, clearly in no mood to allow Mark Cavendish to become unstuck by a moment of misfortune should there be any late spills on the approach to the center of Paris.

Palace of Versailles – GETTY IMAGES

03:38 pm

Greipel is ready to bow out

German fast man Rick Zabel, whose father Erik finished third when Mark Cavendish won his first Tour de France stage in Châteauroux in 2008, has been riding along with compatriots Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) and André Greipel (ISN). Greipel, who won this stage on Champs-Élysées in 2016 and has an incredible 11 Tour de France stage wins on his palmarès, is retiring at the end of the season, as he announced on Saturday.

What a story that would be if Greipel could go head-to-head with his old adversary and sparring partner Cavendish.

03:26 pm

Missing you, wish you were here . . .

. . . or maybe not. There was a nice moment a few minutes ago when the three remaining Slovenians in the race, Matej Mohoric (left), Tadej Pogacar (center), and Luka Mezgec, moved to the front of the slow-moving field of riders before the champion elect whipped out the departed Primoz Roglic’s race number. Roglic abandoned ahead of stage nine, having crushed one time too many, which was a shame for him and the race.

Matej Mohoric (left), Tadej Pogacar (centre) and Luka Mezgec – AP

03:19 PM

Final checks

Ever the perfectionist, Mark Cavendish had yet another close look at his bike ahead of the start of today’s stage. With the possibility of a fifth stage win at this year’s Tour today, the sprinter will not want any mechanical issues on his Specialized Tarmac.

Mark Cavendish – GETTY IMAGES

03:11 pm

Bjerg adds some pennies to the pot

If you were wondering, Mikkel Bjerg was the UAE Team Emirates rider who took the single point on offer in the mountains classification atop the côte des Grès. A little theatrically, the former under-23 world time trial champion rolled off the front before celebrating wildly, having opened his account on the mountains classification and adding €300 to the team’s bulging prize pot.

03:06 pm

Super Franck!

Franck Bonnamour – GETTY IMAGES

Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels p/b KTM), the 26-year-old Frenchman who will complete his first-ever grand TTour this afternoon, has hugely impressed over the last three weeks. There have been very few soft breakaways in this year’s Tour, and Bonnamour managed to get into them regularly. He worked four top-10 finishes but was unable to take a stage win. It was not all for nothing, though; he was named the super combative rider of the Tour.

02:55 pm

101.5km to go

The entire UAE Team Emirates squad is fanned out across the road – Mikkel Bjerg, Rui Costa, Davide Formolo, Marc Hirschi, Vegard Stake Laengen, Rafal Majka, Brandon McNulty, and Tadej Pogacar – dressed in their unique one-off Tour de France winning jerseys, as they head up the final climb of the race, the côte des Grès.

02:48 pm

Fuglsang a non-starter today!

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana-Premier Tech) was a non-starter. His team tweeted that the Dane had been feeling unwell following Saturday’s time trial, and with the Olympics on the horizon – the men’s road race is next Saturday – he has decided to rest up and skip today’s stage.

02:43 pm

106.5km to go

Each jersey wearer – Tadej Pogacar, Mark Cavendish, Wout Poels, and Jonas Vingegaard – has been chatting in front of the slow-moving peloton. Must say, you have to feel for Poels, who put so much into winning the mountains classification and now, having missed out to Pogacar, who won the summit finishes of Col de Portet and Luz Ardiden during stages 17 and 18 to seal the deal, has to wear the jersey on behalf of the Slovenian.

Woet Poels and Tadej Pogacar – EPA

02:40 pm

And they’re off!

Race director Christian Prudhomme has, for the last time at this year’s Tour de France, popped his head out of his shiny red Skoda and dropped his flag to signify that it is time to start racing … but nobody has attacked! That’s right, folks, welcome to the final stage of the Tour, which is a professional spin on Paris.

There will be a race once the peloton reaches the Champs-Élysées when, after eight laps of the old cobbled boulevard, we expect a sprint finish at around six pmm.02:28 pm. We can expect many celebratory photographs and high jinx from the riders who may have wolfed down too much Haribo on the train journey up from Saint-Émilion this morning. But do not let all that put you off following the ‘action’.

Afternoon all

It is a lovely afternoon out in France, the crowds are out in significant numbers, and the peloton is ambling along leisurely as it heads through the neutralized section of the stage at 02:15 pm.

Merckx is backing ‘deserving’ Cavendish for the stage win record.

Belgian legend will have no regrets if sprinter writes him out of history books on Champs-Élysées today, writes Tom Cary. There was a lovely moment in the Tour village in Mourenx on Friday morning when Eddy Merckx was being interviewed on stage in the middle of the velodrome that bears his name following his epic set win in 1969. Asked about a specific Tour stage win record that he now jointly holds, he left his audience with no doubt about what he hoped might happen later that day. “I hope he wins 35 to stop me being asked about it,” the Belgian said, smiling. “He deserves to. He is a great champion.”

Mark Cavendish and Eddy Merckx – Eddy Merckx backing ‘deserving’ Mark Cavendish for Tour de France stage win record – EPA

During this race, Merckx has frequently been depicted as mean-spirited and ungracious about the prospect of Mark Cavendish surpassing his Tour stage wins record. His various observations when asked about it – pointing out that he also won five yellow jerseys in his career or that he spent “2,800km in front, [whereas] Cavendish did that for six seconds” – have resulted in numerous memes and jokes at ‘The Cannibal’s’ expense.

“If Merckx were on @Strava, he’d be the guy flagging everything and calling Strava’s customer support twice a week,” observed former pro-Phil Gaimon on Twitter.

“Breaking: Eddie [sic] Merckx says his team hotels were raided three times during his career and that getting your hotel raided was much harder in his day,” was another sarcastic tweet from @JournalVelo, gently mocking Merckx in the wake of the Bahrain Victorious police raid in Pau earlier in the week while also indirectly reminding us that Merckx had three doping violations in his career.

All of which may be true. Merckx is (justifiably) proud of his record. And he did get caught up in three doping controversies. The history shows that the 76-year-old has also been perfectly happy to lavish praise on Cavendish.

In the entire interview during this race with the Belgian journalist Stephane Thirion of Le Soir, Merckx was fascinated about Cavendish’s punctilious nature when the Manxman stayed at his house in Belgium during his first stint at Deceuninck-Quick Step. “He was the only one who cleaned his room and left it tidy,” Merckx recalled. “A gentleman of exemplary manners.”

Merckx added that Cavendish might be the greatest sprinter in cycling history and would have no qualms should the British rider surpass his stage record in this Tour. “On the contrary,” he said. “Why would I? I sleep very well, thank you. I don’t have nightmares [about it]. I’ve never been that bothered by numbers; the history of cycling evolves and follows its course.”

Merckx stated the blindingly obvious when he spoke about winning five yellow jerseys and stage victories over all terrain. He also won six other grand tours, every monument at least twice, and the Hour Record in a career where he racked up over 500 wins. That record will never be surpassed. The Belgian is a legend of the sport.

And so is Cavendish. Some fans were left stunned when video footage emerged on social media on Friday night of the 36-year-old throwing a temper tantrum before the start of stage 19. Unhappy with his bike’s setup, Cavendish berated an unfortunate QuickStep mechanic, in full view of fans, before storming onto his team bus shouting obscenities.

It was not a good look. But can anyone say they were shocked? Cavendish has always been like this. Like Merckx, he is obsessed with winning. Restless. A perfectionist. Quick to anger. Highly strung. Emotional. He can act abominably. He can be kind and thoughtful. He is a complex, fascinating character.

He is also nearing the end of his first grand Tour in years and is feeling the pressure, knowing the eyes of the world are on him.

That does not excuse his behavior on Friday, but it does help to explain it – and why he has a chance of achieving a record 35th Tour stage win on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday.

Some might say that four stage victories and (in all likelihood) the green jersey, a decade after he last won it, is more than enough. That Cavendish should be thankful for what he has already got. Why they may ask, is he so stressed out? Was it not only eight months ago that he was on the scrap heap?

But that fails to allow riders, such as Cavendish and Merckx, to be wired differently from normal human beings. They are driven in a way most of us cannot comprehend. It is what separates the greatest from the merely great. Cavendish may have 34 stage wins; he may already have achieved one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history. But he wants more. Desperately.

Merckx, to be sure, recognized a kindred spirit at the start on Friday. “I hope you win the stage today,” he said as he embraced Cavendish before the start. It did not happen then, but Cavendish will have one last shot on Sunday. The stage is set. at 07:15 am


Hello and welcome to our rolling blog from the Tour de France’s final stage, the 108.4km ride from Chatou to the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Three weeks after setting off from Brittany and having put 3,306km into their legs, for one last day, the tired and weary peloton will cock its collective leg over 142 top tubes for one more day of riding. And for some, one last day of racing.

With the general, mountains, and youth classifications all but sealed up – all Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) needs to do to take home all three for a second year running is finish the stage within 5min 20sec of second-placed Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and also within the time limit – the focus today will center around both the points classification and a certain British sprinter who if he wins will set some record.

For the final time at this year’s Tour, here’s a quick reminder of who will be what as a respective leader in each of the four main classifications – in other words, those that officially hold jerseys. The Pogacar above will have the Maillot Jaune, the leader’s yellow jersey, draped over his shoulders for a 13th day running, taking an almost unassailable lead of 5min 20sec into today’s stage. Barring a spectacular collapse, the 22-year-old will take home a second maillot jaune after the race finishes later this evening.

There is a maximum of 70 points for grabs today – 20 at the intermediate sprint and 50 for the stage win on the Champs-Élysées. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step) will be dressed in the maillot vert, the green jersey awarded to the leader in the points classification, and would appear the favorite to take that home. It is not a given, though, that the Briton will add a second green jersey to his collection, and he will have to keep an eye on Michael Matthews (BikeExchange), the only other rider who can mathematically win it.

The maillot à pois, the polka dot jersey of the leader in the mountains classification, will be worn by Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), who had targeted the competition, but Pogacar leads it. With just one point up for grabs atop the category four climb in the early part of today’s stage, all Pogacar needs to do to seal the mountains classification is complete the location within the time limit.

For anybody that missed Wout van Aert’s second stage win at this year’s race on Saturday, you can relive the highlights here . . . As the overall leader of the race, Pogacar also tops the best young rider classification. However, as second best, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) will wear the Slovenian’s maillot blanc, the white jersey.

So, what’s on today’s menu?

Tour de France 2021, stage 21 profile – ASO