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Tour de France 2021
#51
Got cricket today so won't be watching and may be playing tomorrow so basically that's it, decent tour but once Pogacar took the lead everything was more or less inevitable, the stages last Sunday and Tuesday could have proved pivotal but in the end turned out to be damp squibs c'est la vie as the Welsh say
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#52
Tadej Pogacar is set to win his second Tour de France after finishing seventh in the penultimate stage time trial.

Jumbo-Visma's Wout van Aert won stage 20, his second stage victory this year.

Pogacar, 22, will officially win the yellow jersey after Sunday's final stage to Paris, when - by tradition - the leader is not challenged.

Defending champion Pogacar, of UAE-Team Emirates, is five minutes 20 seconds ahead of Jumbo-Visma's Jonas Vingegaard in second.

Ecuador's Richard Carapaz of Ineos Grenadiers will finish third, seven minutes three seconds down.

"I'm super happy to finish - it went so fast," said Pogacar. "There was so much support on course, I was just enjoying every moment, though I was suffering as it was super hot.

"I cannot describe it. I was going flat out but it was totally different to stage five [another time trial, won by Pogacar] where there was much more adrenaline. But today I did my best - I was prepared, but not as good in the legs.

"I cannot compare - last year was something else. This year is just different."

A hot day in the saddle
The time trial took place on a hot day near Bordeaux and, for many tired riders, it showed.

Former Tour winner Geraint Thomas, who sacrificed any chances of a potential overall win after a crash early in the three-week race, came home 37th.

The Briton said: "Definitely been the hardest Tour I've done mentally. I enjoyed today - took it easy.

"You've got to go all in. I had a good team around me. Don't get me wrong - there's been some dark times."

Van Aert won the 30.8km time trial by 21 seconds over Demark's Kasper Asgreen of Deceuninck-Quick Step, with Vingegaard third, a further 11 seconds back.

Vingegaard clawed back 15 seconds overall on Pogacar, but Carapaz lost one minute 12 seconds.

The race ends on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday, when Britain's Mark Cavendish will have a chance to break the record for Tour de France stage wins he currently shares with Belgian legend Eddy Merckx by securing a 35th victory.

How did Pogacar dominate the Tour?
Pogacar's performances in the lead-up to the Tour were imperious, beating a string of in-form riders - several of them from Ineos, including Adam Yates at the UAE Tour in February.

The first week of this race was a controversial, crash-strewn affair, with Pogacar the only leading man to stay out of trouble as rivals Roglic and Thomas crashed out of contention.

There were early race attacks, hoping to upset his team, but, since his stage five time-trial victory, Pogacar has not looked back.

Attacks against him in the mountains were few and far between, and when riders such as the surprising Vingegaard - riding for Jumbo-Visma - did venture off the front of the peloton, Pogacar would follow them - making a strong point that he could marshal most situations himself.

Another Tour of toil for Ineos
The sight of Carapaz on the podium in Paris is unlikely to deflect attention away from what will likely be viewed as a disappointing performance from Ineos Grenadiers, who produced the overall winner on seven occasions between 2012 and 2019.

Like Michal Kwiatkowski's victory on stage 18 in 2020, it is scant consolation for a team widely believed to have the biggest budget in cycling.

In their defence, team boss Sir Dave Brailsford can point to numerous high-profile victories this season.

Egan Bernal triumphed at the first Grand Tour of the season - the Giro d'Italia - while Geraint Thomas (Tour de Romandie), Carapaz (Tour de Suisse) and Richie Porte (Criterium du Dauphine) have all enjoyed notable wins.

However, the Tour remains a key barometer of success as the most prestigious race in cycling.

And for the second year running barely anything has gone to plan during a period in which Pogacar's dominance has seemed absolute.

Porte and Tao Geoghegan Hart's effectiveness was immediately impaired after they were caught in a crash on stage one, and 2018 champion Thomas - whose contract is due to expire at the end of the year - has struggled since dislocating his shoulder on stage three.

Even Carapaz's attack on stage 17 - after brilliantly bluffing his way up the Col du Portet on the wheels of Vingegaard and the yellow jersey - fell flat as he conceded time to both at the summit finish.

Speaking at the end of stage 20, Thomas said: "I am well up for the challenge and the fight with the boys. We are certainly up against it. He [Tadej Pogacar] is a talented guy but nobody is unbeatable."

Full stage results

General classification after stage 20
1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE-Team Emirates) 80hrs 16mins 59secs

2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Jumbo Visma) +5mins 20secs

3. Richard Carapaz (Ecu/Ineos Grenadiers) +7mins 3secs

4. Ben O'Connor (Aus/AG2R Citroen) +10mins 02secs

5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned/Bora-Hansgrohe) +10mins 13secs

6. Enric Mas (Spa/Movistar) +11mins 43secs

7. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz/Astana) +12mins 23secs

8. Guillaume Martin (Fra/Cofidis) +15mins 33secs

9. Pello Bilbao (Spa/Bahrain-Victorious) +16mins 4secs

10. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Education Nippo) +18mins 34secs
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#53
And there it was gone, only interest was to see if Cav could break the record he couldn't maybe next year, until then Au Revoir




Mark Cavendish failed in his bid to set a new record of 35 stage wins in the Tour de France as Wout van Aert won the final stage of the 2021 Tour.

Cavendish struggled to find space and could not come past Van Aert in the final few metres of the bunch sprint on Paris' Champs-Elysees.

But the 36-year-old had already won four stages this year to equal the Tour record of 34 set by Eddy Merckx.

Slovenia's Tadej Pogacar of UAE-Team Emirates won the overall yellow jersey.

Despite his failure to take sole ownership of the stage wins record, to have drawn equal with Belgian legend Merckx is an astonishing achievement by Cavendish, who had struggled for form for several seasons and feared last year his career was over.

He was only called up by Deceuninck Quick-Step as a late replacement for injured Irish sprinter Sam Bennett.

But, a full five years after his previous Tour stage win, his sprinting dominance earned him his second Tour de France green jersey, awarded to the winner of the points classification.

History done the hard way
Cavendish was never supposed to be at this Tour. It is only nine months since he proclaimed, through tears, the likely end of his career following a difficult one-day race last year.

He has battled the Epstein-Barr virus, several heavy crashes and depression, all since his last victory at the Tour five years ago for Dimension Data. Back then he won four stages early in the race in what was seen as a swansong.

After signing a surprise one-year deal with Belgian one-day and sprinting specialists Deceuninck-Quick Step, the team were firm on Cavendish not being part of their Tour plans.

But a long-term injury to their young Dutch talent Fabio Jakobsen - who suffered serious head injuries in a horror crash at the 2020 Tour of Poland - and a last-minute knee injury for last year's green jersey winner Bennett left the team and its characterful owner Patrick Lefevere with few options.

In many ways, Lefereve and Cavendish are kindred spirits - outspoken, passionate about their craft and known to tell journalists how they feel if they have overstepped the mark with questions.

But Cavendish is also fiercely loyal, especially to his team. He speaks of Danish rider Michael Morkov as "the anti-me" because of his unflustered, calm demeanour. And also of the class of team-mates at Quick-Step who have led him out for his sprint victories.

Cavendish said last week he has "no real sentiment either way" about the record - will he back next year to try to extend it?

Mark Cavendish's career record. 34 tour stage wins, 15 giro stage wins, 3 veulta stage wins, 1 world champions rainbow jersey, 1 commonwealth gold, 1 olympic silver, 2 green jerseys
President Pogacar takes the plaudits
Pogacar has dominated this Tour. Unchallenged in the mountains, he blew away the rest in the first time trial on stage 5.

The 22-year-old did not once look troubled by the pace of the race, or his rivals.

This is the polar opposite from last year, when he overhauled countryman Primoz Roglic of Jumbo-Visma on the penultimate stage's time trial to win by more than a minute after Roglic had dominated up to that point.

But the demeanour of Pogacar has changed this time around - from a young, respectful rider disbelieving of his own achievements, to one who is happy to make a point of rivals' kidology on the climbs, by aggressively punching the air and pointedly smiling in his rivals' direction, in the same way other legendary riders did in their pomp.

He said: "Incredible, I didn't [ever] dream about this - it's something beyond a dream.

"Hard to tell which [win is] more special. Last year there was no pressure, and I wasn't ready to take the win - [I would have been] happy with second, and it ended with me winning.

"This year already I had yellow from the first week - really different. But proud of both."

tour
The stage one crash caused by a spectator led to chaos in the peloton
Omi, Opi & a lot of controversy
Pogacar may have been unmatched, but the fact the French police have been involved twice tells you this Tour has been an eventful one.

Day one saw a terrible crash: a fan holding a cardboard sign wishing her grandparents well caused several injuries and abandonments after she stood in the road with her back to the oncoming peloton to ensure prime TV exposure.

Organisers ASO announced they would begin legal proceedings against her, and she was subsequently arrested by police, although both later dropped any action, with the organisers hoping lessons will be learned in future.

Four-time winner Chris Froome suffered a bad crash on the same stage, struggling to walk as he was helped back to his feet - a worrying sight given his two years of recovery from a near career-ending crash in 2019.

He was already resigned to not being competitive at this year's race, despite a multi-million pound deal with Israel Start Up Nation, but it was encouraging to see him at least finish such a punishing three-week Tour.

The race was also marred by several of Pogacar's rivals crashing, leading to the abandonment of Jumbo-Visma's Primoz Roglic and Geraint Thomas riding with a shoulder dislocation sustained on stage three.

Off the bike, Team Bahrain-Victorious' hotel was raided by police late in the race following allegations over doping.

The team's rider Matej Mohoric said after winning on stage 19: "At the end of the day I have nothing to hide."

Who won what? And who won nothing
For a rider so young, and so good in the mountains, it is not surprising to see Pogacar claim the polka dot king of the mountains jersey, and the white young rider's jersey.

The only remaining one - the green points jersey - went to Cavendish for his stage wins and intermediate efforts.

Although richly deserved, it is worth noting many of his rivals abandoned the race through injury, such as Lotto-Soudal's Caleb Ewan and Bora-Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan.

Other sprint favourites, such as France's Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ and Nacer Bouhanni of Arkea-Samsic, were eliminated after missing the time limit on mountain stages.
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#54
Thanks again to themaclad for his daily updates on Le Tour. I'll add my thoughts to his reports as usual, mainly because I like to be HEARD!!!

Only two other riders finished within 10 minutes of Tadej Pogacar, which really tells you all you need to know about the Yellow Jersey contest.

In the Green Jersey contest, Mark Cavendish cemented his dominance with 3rd place behind Wout Van Aert and Jesper Philipsen in Paris to finish 46 points ahead of Michael Matthews and 110 points ahead of Sonny Colbrelli.

The King Of The Mountains Jersey was won by Pogacar, mainly due to the huge number of points awarded to a mountain stage winner, but that will surely be looked at for next year. Wouter Poels was 2nd, 19 points behind with Jonas Vingegaard a further 6 points adrift.

The Youth winner was Pogacar again with Vingegaard 2nd and David Gaudu 3rd.

The Team prize was won by Bahrain Victorious (helped by their run-in with Inspector Clouseau of the Gendarmerie) from EF Education Nippo (led by Cato? - no ritchie, wrong nationality) and Jumbo Visma (which really should have been a panther).

The super-combative prize was won by Frank Bonnamour.

Just to dwell on the last category description, the one thing I've enjoyed about the after-race interviews is the word "super" from the riders whose first language is not English - Super-happy/hard/tired/etc. The other words heard more often than most others are "for sure". Now indelibly imprinted in my memory.

Much has been made of the record 34 stage wins by Merckx and Cavendish. Cav will undoubtedly be back next year to try to extend that number and many will believe it will become unbeatable. If someone can do it, Pogacar could easily be that man. He's still only 22 and has won 6 stages in 2 years and cannot be discounted readily if he continues to improve. One record that will surely never be threatened is Merckx's of being the holder of all 4 jerseys in 1969.
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#55
Now Mark Cavendish is at it. - "I never really thought about getting it [the green points jersey] since 2011. I am super grateful - it feels like I am getting younger. I'm back, it's a dream." Mind you, as he's a Manxman, perhaps English is not his first language. Whistle
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#56
Why can't he win things at the Olympics?  Huh  Doh
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#57
In his defence, he did win Silver at the Rio Olympics (over 3 legs on each of two days). Rolleyes Doh
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