Tour de France Week 3 Recap

Tour de France riders passing by Saint-Etienne Cathedral in Bourges, France. (Charly Lopez/ASO)

As Tadej Pogačar crossed the line on the Champs-Élysées on the final lap of the 2021 Tour de France, so many things could have been going through his mind.

Whether it was the controversial crash on the first stage, the protest for road safety on stage 4, putting on the yellow jersey for stage 8, or the threat of losing the tour lead anywhere in between, his mind contained a few things for sure: victory and relief that he retained his title in Paris.

The Slovenian cyclist crossed the line in Paris after winning back-to-back on stages 17 and 18 of the Grand Tour. Not only did he win the overall standings competition, he also led the young riders competition and won the King of the Mountain jersey as well. Not only did Pogačar win the race, he dominated it. Out of the 21 stages in the tour, he won three and placed within the top-10 nine times. There is no denying his dominance in the sport, and his performance over the last month shows that this will not be the last time we see him dominate.

Following a rest day, stage 16 resumed a mountainous landscape, seeming to be an annual tradition at this point of the tour. In a damp stage that has caused numerous struggles in the past, Patrick Konrad of team Bora-Hansgrohe won the stage after competing in many mountainous breakaways on the day. For his efforts, he was deemed the most aggressive rider on the day, receiving a red number for the following day. In the mountains, Wouter Poels of the Netherlands retained his King of the Mountain jersey for another day, while Pogačar held a 5 minute lead over Rigoberto Uran in the overall standings.

Stage 17 was dominated by Tadej Pogačar, as he came out victorious on the stage and earned maximum points on the highest climb of the day. The stage led up to this climb, being flat for most of the first half. With two climbs ranking as category-1, it was likely to be a dominant rider who would win after all. Despite the same group of riders leading through the first two climbs, Pogačar saved his energy for the highest climb, a climb which none of the other top climbers finished in the top 5. Because of his strategy on the day, Pogačar’s overall lead was extended to 5:30 over Jonas Vingegaard of team Jumbo-Visma.

Stage 18 featured a pair of high climbs, and if you didn’t experience Pogačar’s brain at work yesterday, you could watch today and witness greatness again. Not only did Pogačar wait until the final climb to attack, but he also won that climb, along with the stage, and snatched the King of the Mountain jersey off of the aforementioned Wouter Poels. Pogačar’s lead was extended to 5:45 over Vingegaard, and Pogačar held three of the race’s four jerseys. Mark Cavendish held his place in green.

The winner of stage 19 was not Tadej Pogačar but fellow Slovenian rider Matej Mohoric. Statistically an average sprinter, Mohoric chose a solid stage to attack. Outside of the category-4 climb to kick off the race, it was smooth sailing for any speed-cyclist who had the energy to attack. This stage was not going to result in much movement in the standings, as Pogačar was locked into the yellow and white jerseys, Cavendish had green, and there were no mountains unless one felt free to scale the Eifel Tower (no points offered for that). The stage was a transition stage that set the final standings for the race, and Mohoric saw the ideal opportunity to snag a win before hitting Paris.

Slovenian cyclist Tadej Pogačar atop the podium for the overall victory at the Tour de France. (Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA-EFE)

Wout Van Aert of Belgium came up with his second win of the Tour de France; however, it was merely a time trial. All rankings stood pat, and Pogačar came roughly a minute behind the Belgian cyclist. The next stage would be the ceremonial stage around the Champs-Élysées, and no one would take away the victory of Slovenian cyclist Tadej Pogačar.

Outside of Van Aert winning on the Champs-Élysées to bring home his third stage win of the tour, stage 21 seemed to focus around Pogačar. The Slovenian received the tour’s yellow, white, and polka-dot jersey for his efforts as the overall champion, the best rider under 26 years of age, and the most dominant rider on the mountains. In addition, Mark Cavendish (against all odds, if I may add) put up a Sagan-like performance in the sprinter competition and crushed the other competitors. Although he didn’t break Eddy Merckx’s career stage win record this season, he won 4 stages to bring himself to par with the Belgian legend, and he came in third place on the day. He finished the day on the podium for the green jersey.

Overall, the 108th edition of the French Grand Tour was a blast to watch, from the first stage having controversy weaved in every part to seeing both youngsters and veterans dominate at the same sport. Tadej Pogačar is the next star when it comes to cycling, and if Mark Cavendish isn’t retired by next season, some team might as well pick him up to continue rewriting the history books. There is very much a bright future in cycling, and that will be on full display within the next month as many of these cyclists will compete in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.

All statistics, results, and up-to-date data and reports were found on the tour’s website.

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