The Tour Final Rant: We wind up the 2021 Tour de France with Ed Hood’s thoughts on the final week’s action. Was it a good Tour? Will we remember it in years to come? Maybe for one or two standout moments, but it wasn’t a vintage year. Ed’s Tour round-up.
A worthy top three
. . was never going to be a GC day, not with that long downhill run to the finish – a breakaway day for sure. Konrad’s stage win coupled with Politt’s means that BORA will be happy with their Tour, despite losing Sagan who has now had surgery on his knee; that was a sore one, chainring into his kneecap – ouch! Konrad’s win was a memorable one for his nation; only two Austrians have been stage winners previously at the Tour: Max Bulla who won three in 1931 – before even the time of Vik and me – and Georg Totschnig in 2005 who we do remember; five times Austrian time trial champion and winner of his national tour in 2000, a solid pro for 13 years.
Solo by Konrad
Konrad has been around for a while too, first riding pro with continental team Tyrol in 2010, this is his seventh season with BORA and his biggest result, albeit he’s made the top 10 in the Giro twice and stood on the GC podium of the Tour of Switzerland in third place.
Suit you sir
The day suited Pogačar just fine, the last post-rest day stage he seemed to have lost the rhythm of the race a little but today with a break up the road and that downhill run in, he was never troubled. Tomorrow should see more action, Carapaz must go on the offensive to cement a podium place, Uran and Vingegaard are stronger time testers so he has to get time in hand. The 2215 metre Stage 17 finish atop the Col du Portet gives him a great opportunity, the conclusion of a savage final 65 kilometres of a 178K stage.
Though guy Tim Declercq
Tim Declercq @ 3:46:39, ironic for a man who spends so much time at the front – let’s hope the rest day has helped, ‘The Tractor’ in his recovery from that horrible crash.
Well, I got that right, Carapaz went on the offensive and put time into Uran but is it enough – albeit there’s still tomorrow’s ‘short sharp shock’ Stage 18 to come and he could improve his buffer on Rigo?
Rigo started to crack
That said, the Colombian only put 36 seconds into the Ecuadorian over the 27K of Stage Five; Saturday’s ‘elbow bend’ – as the 70’s English roadmen used to disparagingly call time trials – is over 30K and one for the specialists [and Pogačar, of course] and plays to neither man’s strengths. The top three then looks cast in stone – unless there’s a real upset on Luz Ardiden? Pogacar? He’s at a different level, a ‘Patron’ at 22 years of age, it’s tempting to say that the race is his for years to come – but we said that about Jan Ulrich. . .
Pogačar making it look easy
If he makes it to the top of Luz Ardiden inside the cut then there are two more stages with his name written on them, albeit his margin over Matthews whilst comfortable isn’t insurmountable and the Aussie team will be desperate to rescue this Tour.
Cavendish got through the mountains
Wout Poels leads from Pogačar, the Slovenian obviously isn’t targeting the competition but if he’s first to the mountain top finishes then he gets the big points – Poels will try to get in the break to grab the points on the Tourmalet, it’s most likely that the bulk of the finish line points will go to the GC guys or possible break survivors – but that’s unlikely.
The KOM battle was between Poels and Quintana, but Pogačar would take more points
Some dude called Pogačar – it’s conceivable he could walk with three jerseys then, yellow, white and polka dot?
Pogačar taking it easy
Is still big Tim Declercq; as Wim Vansevenant, father of Deceuninck pro Mauri and the only man to be ‘lanterne rouge’ on three occasions said; ‘it’s not something you go for, it comes to you. . .’
Tim Declercq still hanging in there
Stage 18 should be ultra-aggressive, there are an awful lot of teams with nothing to show for this Tour and as mentioned earlier, after today the pickings will be slim so this will be a fire cracker from the start. Watch for the Team BikeExchange trying to eliminate Cav and Quintana trying to get back into polka dots – and there’s a man of whom we thought it was only a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ he won the Tour de France. . .
His coach says it’s coz the rest aren’t good enough but as Ms. Mandy Rice-Davies once famously said; ‘well he would, wouldn’t he?’ [Google her, folks].
And others say it’s because his opposition are ‘risk averse.’ I guess we all have our own take. . . And glory be – I got something else right, the slim young fella will indeed take three different jerseys home to Komenda. What else to say about this stage apart from Wout Pauwels perhaps not being the best company around the dinner table tonight? Cav is home safe in green, thanks to the Boys in Blue with Stages 19 and 21 suited to the small gentleman’s skill set.
The good and the bad – Poels not doing so well in the KOM and Cav finished within the time limit
If it was a good day for Slovenia and Isle of Man then it was a bad one for Colombia with ever-popular ‘Rigo’ Uran having a very public, ‘jour sans.’ Way back in the first week one could see that Rigo, Carapaz and Vingegaard were the top three behind our chum from Komenda. I thought that Rigo’s strong time testing would be the telling factor but Luz Ardiden had other ideas and the man in pink haemorrhaged close to nine minutes – ouch!
Bad day for Rigo
Carapaz is ‘last man standing’ of the much anticipated INEOS, ‘four pronged assault’ on the Tour; Geraint Thomas, despite his Romandie win looks tired – Richie Porte may have been on the Tour podium last year but the podium is one thing, winning quite another – Tao Geoghegan Harte may well have won the 2020 Giro but I’ll wager that’s the only Grand Tour he’ll ever win in what was an unusual race in the ‘Days of Covid.’
Vingegaard looking good
Vingegaard, unlike Thomas and Porte is on the way up and an exciting prospect, his third place in the first chrono opened a few eyes, mine included – as has always been the case in Grand Tours, if you can’t time test then you can’t win, it’s that simple. Looking a little further down the GC, Aussie Ben O’Connor’s stage win and now fourth spot on GC make it a very good Tour for AG2R – but we need to wait until his next Grand Tour to decide if it’s the start of something big or just that ‘purple patch,’ that if we work hard, comes to us but is often hard to repeat.
Cab for Mr. Froome!
My daily look at the lower reaches of the GC tells me that, ‘The Tractor’ still anchors the race @ 4 hrs.53 min. with Chris Froome just a few places above @ 4:07 – but our editor, Al reckons that those resourceful Israelis have a DeLorean time machine and. . .
On paper it looked like a ‘sprinters’ stage’ but a man who knows better than me, Simon Clarke [Team Qhubeka NextHash & Australia], a Vuelta stage winner and king of the mountains, had this to say; ‘I was sure that what was a flat day in the third week of the Tour de France very rarely ends in a sprint stage.’ But why should that be the case? One word you could to employ would be, ‘desperation.’
Simon Clarke knows a thing or two
Some 60% of the value of a professional team’s advertising and media impact comes from the Tour de France. If you approach a potential sponsor for a new squad, the first thing that they will ask is; ‘will this team you’re proposing ride in the Tour de France.’ And when you look at Deceuninck or Team Slovenia you can see why, if you’re successful, it’s such a huge bill board. However, if your team has won nothing, never worn a jersey or figured in the breaks then it’s a disaster; therefore the last road stages become a desperate battle for recognition. But another fruitless one today as once again a tall, slim Slovenian had the most strength and panache. And there are other reasons why the break snapped the elastic today; in the first week everyone is fresh and full of fight, particularly the sprinters’ teams – but in the third week with crashes, tiredness and a diminished complement of sprinters to work for, the escape artists job becomes a little easier.
Mohorič – The other Slovenian
Finally, there’s Elysium, where; ‘Those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic would remain at the Elysian Fields after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulge in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life.’ Do you waste your teams strength chasing all day or do you save it for two days and those Elysian Fields?
Never anger the gods
Cav has won over the famous cobbles on four occasions, the record, if he made it five and in the process uncovered the Holy Grail 35th stage win in total, surely the Gods would grant him flat stages with nothing more than a railway bridge to climb, for eternity? And we know that Michael Mørkøv would be there to lead him out, he’s an immortal, if ever there was one.
WVA: Wonderfully Versatile Athlete; some hi-lites since the last Tour de France:
The best all round cyclist in the world? As the pros say; ‘For sure!’
What can’t Wout do?
With the gaps between the top 10 as they were it was unlikely there would be any re-shuffle of the pack; and so it proved with the classement unchanged. Wout’s ride whilst brilliant was no surprise; Asgreen reminded us he’s a ‘beast of a boy’; Vingegaard confirmed he’s that rare combination, a climber who can beat the clock on flat roads; Küng was his usual poetry in motion but three long weeks around France told on him in the closing kilometres; Bissegger confirmed as a ‘coming chrono man’; Cattaneo did what big, strong Deceuninck boys do; Bjerg reminded us that he was three times u23 World Time Test Champion – and he’s still only 22 years-old; and Pogacar… did enough.
Tour No.2 in the bag
Wout must have hacked my laptop overnight and read yesterday’s ramblings; ‘Ha! Has this guy forgotten I’m a world class sprinter too?’
Van Aert is the ‘Special One’
Sorry Wout, as the late, great Eddie Cochran might say, you’re; ‘Somethin’ Else!’ I’ve no more superlatives left for Wout and I don’t go in multiple exclamation marks so we’ll leave it that he’s one very special gentleman. But to close on Wout; the last rider to win a mountain stage, time trial and sprint in the same Tour was Bernard Hinault in 1979.
A young Hinault winning the Tour
If you’d said to him before this Tour; ‘we’ll give you ONE stage win and third on the Champs.’ I suspect he might have bitten your hand off. However, having set the bar so high with four magnificent stage wins and equalling The Baron’s stage win record, third on the Champs must have been a disappointment. But four stages and the green jersey for a rider who just a matter of weeks ago looked set to be put out to pasture is a wonderful accomplishment.
It all started with Alaphilippe on stage 1
As for Deceuninck, they took five stage wins, wore yellow with ‘Ala’ after Stage One and held green for the entire race, initially with ‘Ala’ then with Cav. Their five stages takes their UCi wins to 37 and confirms their status at the top of the World Tour team rankings – impressive.
Pogačar never looked stressed or in trouble
The overall winner, Pogacar?
The 22 year-old never looked troubled, taking his second Tour de France at a canter. Second place Vingegaard looks like a great prospect for the future [what’s that you say? Sir David has been asking around for his mobile number?]. Whilst Carapaz has now been on the podium of all three Grand Tours, a great achievement for a man coming from his small nation. But whilst Carapaz deserves plaudits there will doubtless be beaucoup de ‘re-calibration’ at Maison INEOS.
INEOS were not the team of recent years
A good Tour, no complaints and 2022 sees the prospect of Tadej v. a fully fit Egan – I look forward to that one.
Co-record holder – Will he be back in 2022?
Who knows but love him or hate him, his contribution to the 2021 Tour de France was immense.
CHAPEAU! Monsieurs Cavendish et Pogačar.
It’s never all black & white
Tour de France Final Overall Result:
1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates in 82:56:36
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma at 5:20
3. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) INEOS Grenadiers at 7:03
4. Ben O’Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën at 10:02
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) BORA-hansgrohe at 10:13
6. Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar at 11:43
7. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech at 12:23
8. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis at 15:33
9. Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious at 16:04
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education-Nippo at 18:34
11. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 21:50
12. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 24:58
13. Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) BikeExchange at 37:48
14. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux at 38:09
15. Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën at 39:09
16. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious at 50:35
17. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious at 51:40
18. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo at 54:10
19. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma at 57:02
20. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 1:02:18
21. Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Qhubeka-NextHash at 1:03:12
22. Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM at 1:04:35
23. Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) INEOS Grenadiers at 1:06:20
24. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 1:07:50
25. Sergio Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education-Nippo at 1:09:16.