- Van Aert wins his second stage at 2021 Tour de France
- Pogacar all but seals second consecutive Tour title
- Vingegaard second in stage to seal runners-up spot
- Carapaz to become first Ecuadorian to make podium
W hen in future years they come to look back on the 2021 Tour de France, it will be the story of a race which began thrillingly, with an extraordinary first week featuring crashes and chaos and flat-out action and Mark Cavendish's miraculous rebirth and a woman who took out half the peloton with a cardboard sign and then went into hiding.
But one which ultimately ended with Tadej Pogacar bludgeoning his rivals into submission, claiming his second successive Tour de France title by over five minutes.
Saturday's penultimate day time trial was a long, long way from the dramatic 11th-hour turnaround at the same stage of the race 10 months ago, when Pogacar blindsided his compatriot Primoz Roglic on La Planche des Belles Filles.
Then there was a feeling of shock and awe that a 21-year-old could have done such a thing. This year's victory was a rout. There was zero suspense on Saturday. The setting may have been glorious, the vineyards outside Saint-Emilion resplendent in the summer sunshine, but the crowds might as well have been snoozing off a bottle or two of Grand Cru for all the action they got.
Ultimately, only two riders will finish within 10 minutes of Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) when the race rolls into Paris on Sunday afternoon. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo Visma), who will finish at 5:20 and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) who finishes at 7:03.
Pogacar could probably have extended his advantage over them had he so wished. He won the first time trial of the race in Laval. This time, he chose to pick his way carefully through the vines, finishing eighth fastest, almost a minute slower than stage winner Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
Undoubtedly Pogacar is a very special rider. A generational talent. Eddy Merckx himself predicted on Friday that the Slovenian would ultimately win more Tours than the five he won. Yet it is still too early to call this the Age of Pogacar, as some are doing. Context is everything and while he may have won this race at a canter, circumstances denied us the chance to see him up against his rivals at their best.
We do not yet know, for instance, how a fully fit and firing Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) would get on against the boy prince. We are left wondering how Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) might have fared this year had he not fallen, like Geraint Thomas, on stage three. And we still have the exciting prospect of other young, exciting talents coming to join the party.
Who is to say how Remco Evenepoel, Tom Pidcock, or Vingegaard himself, if he is given proper backing, could push on from here. Remember it was only two years ago everyone was confidently predicting the Age of Bernal.
Pogacar himself appeared reluctant to talk up this win. Earlier this week he dismissed any talk of a "Pogacar era" as "stupid". "For sure a new generation is coming," he said. "We see so many youngsters stepping up to the highest level. I think it's a nice era of cycling now and we will see a lot of battles between everybody. It's going to be a great next decade."
In his winner's press conference on Saturday, he continued that theme, saying he did not consider himself the "boss" of the peloton in the same way as a Merckx or a Lance Armstrong.
"I don't like really comparisons," he said. "Because every rider is unique and has their own personality. I don't consider myself as a boss. We are just here to do the race and enjoy the bike.”
He added: “It's very different comparing this year to last year. Last year was less stressed about everything [because he did not lead the race until the final day and therefore went under the radar for most of the three weeks]. This year is a bit more difficult off the bike but I think it's more enjoyable. I can enjoy the moment more."
It was a shame for the race that after that frantic start in Brittany – one of the best opening blocks in Tour history – the battled for yellow was such a non-event. But the race itself has rarely been dull. Some of the individual stages have been brilliant. And, of course, there has been Cavendish.
A battle-weary peloton will ride into Paris on Sunday afternoon before disappearing in different directions, some to Tokyo for the Olympics, others for a much-needed lie-down. But not before the Manx Missile fires off one last shot for glory.
Barring further fallout from the Bahrain-Victorious police raid the other night, or developments in the report by Swiss newspaper Le Temps earlier this week, which raised the spectre of mechanical doping at this race, with three separate riders at the Tour alleging that they heard noises they had never heard before coming from bikes involving four teams at the race, Cavendish's bid for win No 35 will take centre stage on Sunday.
Van Aert – one of those who is heading to Tokyo – was asked after his win on Saturday whether he was satisfied with two stage wins at this race, his other victory coming after the double ascent of Ventoux in the middle week, or whether fancied a bunch sprint before he boarded his flight.
He said he would do his best to defend his compatriot Merckx's honour. "I'm still motivated for tomorrow," he said, smiling. "Especially with the sprint on the Champs Elysees being so iconic. We'll definitely try for it."
He may represent Cavendish’s greatest threat. The Manxman, though, with a full Deceuninck-QuickStep leadout, will be the overwhelming favourite. "I'm already thinking of tomorrow," admitted the 36 year-old, who may well be racing in Paris for the final time. "I hope for a stage win. As with every stage, there are many teams who haven't won yet and will battle for victory. Anyway, it will normally come down to a sprint on the Champs Elysees. I will just try to win this bike race."
Pogacar all but seals the Tour de France
T adej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) has finished his time trial in eighth place, 57.35sec down on stage winner Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) while he also lost 25sec on Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) who was third behind Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step). However, having taken a 5min 45sec lead into Saturday’s stage that maillot jaune should stay on the shoulders of the defending champion all the way to the Champs-Élysées.
S ome of the time gaps may have changed following stage 20, but not one rider in the general classification top 10 moved up or down.
Vingegaard impresses with third
J onas Vingegaard sets the third fastest time of the day to all but seal runners-up spot at the Tour, while Richard Carapaz will become the first Ecuadorian to finish on the podium at the world’s biggest bike race. The Ineos Grenadiers rider has now finished in the top three of all of the grand tours after winning the Giro d’Italia in 2019 and finishing as runner-up at last year’s shortened Vuelta a España.
O’Connor all but seals fourth
B en O’Connor finished 2min 40.91sec down on Wout van Aert, but more crucially for the Ag2r-Citroën rider he did not lose that fourth spot on general classification to Dutchman Wilco Kelderman.
Vingegaard is flying
J onas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) was the second quickest at the second time check, 21.50sec down on his team-mate Wout van Aert. That’s an incredible performance from Vingegaard who is going to finish his first grand tour in second spot while becoming the first Dane to take a podium spot since Bjarne Riis won the race in 1996.
Aussie O’Connor in control
W ilco Kelderman is just over 1sec faster than Ben O’Connor at the second time check. Unless O’Connor collapses or crashes in the final 10.7km of the stage, the Australian will keep hold of fourth spot on general classification – they were separated by 32sec this morning.
Vingegaard on course to seal second overall
J onas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), who was third in the stage five time trial, has set the third fastest time of the day, over 17sec quicker than Richard Carapaz and so that should seal his second place on the general classification – they started the day separated by just 6sec.
Pogacar plodding towards Tour title
T adej Pogacar, dressed in his yellow skinsuit, is riding a very conservative race today. He was eighth fastest at the first time check, 16.83sec slower than Wout van Aert at the same point.
All-rounder Van Aert takes the hotseat
W out van Aert, who remember is targeting the time trial at this month’s Olympics, held ion in the final third of today’s stage to set a new fastest time, the Belgian going 21.19sec faster than Kasper Asgreen having completed the 30.8km course at a speed of 51.5kmh.
O’Connor out on course
B en O’Connor (Ag2r-Citroën), one of the revelations at this year’s Tour de France, has just started. Can the Aussie who signed to the French team late last year on a one-year contract keep hold of his fourth place on general classification? Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) to follow here today.
Wind assisted Van Aert on course to take hotseat
K asper Asgreen went fast on the final third of this course, while Stefan Küng lost his way. According to reports there is a slight tailwind out on the final run-in to the line which may just help Wout van Aert to gaining another 15 or 20 seconds on Asgreen.
Van Aert on course for top spot
W out van Aert is fastest through the second time check in Montagne, the Belgian has another 10.7km to go but is leading by 24.69sec. He is looking very comfortable, pushing what looks like a huge gear – big chainring on the front and the smallest cog on his rear cassette. He’s an absolute monster, in the best possible way.
The final countdown
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) is the second to last Frenchman to get his time trial under way. The young climber started the day 11th on general classification and will not threaten the podium today. Next down the starting ramp will be the final 10 riders, those that fill the top 10 berths in the general classification. Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-Nippo), Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Premier Tech), Enric Mas (Movistar), Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe), Ben O’Connor (Ag2r-Citroën), Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) will each get their races started at two-minute intervals.
Paret-Peintre gets off
Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Ag2r-Citroën), who started the day 15th on general classification, has rolled down the starting ramp and the Frenchman who has enjoyed a decent Tour de France debut, receives a warm welcome. A minute or so later Wout van Aert flies through the first time check and the Belgian sets a new fastest time.
T here he is, out on the course. That’s right, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) who is also riding the time trial at this month’s Olympic Games has rolled down the starting ramp. This man is possibly the greatest all-rounder in world cycling right now, when not contesting sprints against Mark Cavendish the Belgian is winning stages with two ascents of Mont Ventoux, but can he win a time trial at the Tour de France? Stick with us and we will let you know in around 35min.
Thomas’s Tour almost done
G eraint Thomas has completed his race, the Welshman finishing 3min 6.87sec down on Kasper Asgreen. One suspects he will be looking forward to a day or two off after his tough Tour before returning to action in the Olympic road race next weekend.
The Spanish armada
Jonathan Castroviejo , the five-time Spanish time trial champion who was yet again a monster in the mountains for Ineos Grenadiers, is out on the road as are compatriots Ion Izagirre (Astana-Premier Tech) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Küng’s horror show
T elevision pictures have just shown a distraught looking Stefan Küng sat on the floor and it is not easy viewing. The Swiss did an incredible ride in the stage five time trial only to be beaten by an otherworldly performance from Tadej Pogacar. He will have spent the last two weeks waiting for today’s race, but sadly for Küng he just didn’t have the legs when needed most. A very harsh end to his Tour.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) rolls down the starting ramp and, unsurprisingly, the Frenchman receives a huge welcome from the roadside spectators. Nobody is expecting the world road race champion to win today, but that will not stop him from putting on a show for his many fans. Shortly afterwards, Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) gets his race under way.
Team GB pair well off the pace
Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), who will be representing Great Britain in the time trial at the forthcoming Olympics, was 48.03sec down at the first time check. Thomas’s trade and national team-mate Tao Geoghegan Hart , who will also be representing Team GB in ‘the race of truth’ in Tokyo completed his race 4min 2.09sec down.
Küng’s crown slips in final third
A big shock this and Stefan Küng, who flew out of the traps, is the second fastest on the day, 16.81sec slower than Kasper Asgreen.
Fuglsang’s last hurrah
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana-Premier Tech), who has been fairly anonymous over the last three weeks, has got his race under way while a few minutes back Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers) rolled down the ramp. The Aussie is decent tester but may struggle after doing so much work in the mountains for Richard Carapaz.
Touch and go for Küng
S tefan Küng was still the fastest at the second time check, but the Swiss lost a stack of time. However, Kasper Asgreen gained around 15sec in the final third of the race and so if Küng does similar then he could take his place in the hotseat with the fastest time of the day.
Küng the king?
S tefan Küng is flying. The Swiss was 10.11sec faster than Kasper Asgreen at the first time check which, remember, is after just 7.6km. Will the Küng be crowned later on this afternoon with his first stage win at the Tour de France which would be both a huge personal achievement and may just save his Groupama-FDJ team’s race?
Asgreen is the new leader
H aving set the fastest time at the two time checks, Kasper Asgreen dethroned Stefan Bissegger having belted his way around the course at an average speed of 51.003kmh, completing the 30.8km stage in 36min 14.53sec which was a massive 23.40sec better than the Swiss.
Küng out on the road
B randon McNulty is the third fastest on the day, but was 50.39sec slower than current leader Stefan Bissegger. Stefan Küng is on the course, but for the next few minutes all eyes are on Kasper Asgreen.
Asgreen holding on . . .
T he great Dane is holding a steady pace and was also fastest at the second time check – 5.61sec quicker than Stefan Bissegger. Stefan Küng , meanwhile, is sat in the start house looking especially focused before the European time trial champion gets his race under way.
Asgreen on the march . . .
K asper Asgreen set the fastest time of the day at the first time check, almost 7sec faster than Stefan Bissegger – 6.58sec to be precise.
De Gendt’s last stand?
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), the Belgian rider who often puts in a decent performance in the time trial, has completed his race but was some way off the pace – 38min 35.42sec, 1min 57.49sec down on Stefan Bissegger. Although he has not confirmed it, there has been some suggestion that this may be De Gendt’s final Tour.
B randon McNulty has set the third fastest time at the first time check in Pomerol, while Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step), the three-time Danish time trial champion, has just got his race under way, as has Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers). Asgreen is one of the favourites today, along with Stefan Bissegger , Wout van Aert , Stefan Küng and, of course, race leader Tadej Pogacar.
Froome almost in Paris
C hris Froome completed his race earlier in 41min 21.62sec, 4min 43.69sec slower than the time that was later set by Stefan Bissegger. Despite having never threatened to win a stage, the four-time winner will, one imagines, be happy that he is close to completing his first grand tour since his career-threatening crash in June 2019.
The next big thing?
Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), the young American who has been working over the last three weeks for Tadej Pogacar, has rolled down the starting ramp. McNulty produced some impressive rides earlier in the year and has been tipped by many as being the next big thing in stage racing and will be keen on posting fast time.
Wright on time
S hortly before Connor Swift (Arkéa-Samsic), the former British road champion, got his time trial under way south London’t Fred Wright set the day’s third fastest time. One imagines the former VC Londres rider will be pretty chuffed with his time of 37min 49.12 which was faster than the likes of Chris Froome or Luke Durbridge could post.
The Wright stuff
Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), the youngest rider at this year’s race, has caught his minute-man Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal) before setting the fifth fastest time at the second time check. The young Briton, though, was 1min 4.85sec down on Stefan Bissegger and so is unlikely to dethrone the Swiss from his top spot. Decent looking ride though which will be a huge boost to the 22-year-old.
Swiss specialist Bissegger clocks off in style
S tefan Bissegger , the Swiss time trial specialist who suffered the misfortune of having to do his time trial during stage five in the rain, has set the fastest time of the day thus far. The neo-pro who is making his Tour de France debut clocked the fastest time at both time checks, but most importantly at the fishing line too.
P rior to setting a new fastest time, Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates), the former under-23 world time trial champion, had taken the hotseat however the Dana had not even sat down before Bissegger booted him into touch. Bjerg, by the way, was the first rider of the day to break the 50kmh mark – 50.286kmh to be precise.
As it stands . . .
A s it stands 57 riders have either completed their time trials for the day, or are out on the course.
Riders who have finished: Tim Declercq, Cees Bol, Mark Cavendish, Michael Morkov, Mads Pedersen, Reto Hollenstein, Dries Devenyns, Rick Zabel, Chris Froome, Jelle Wallays, Jérémy Cabot, Sean Bennett, Julien Simon, Nils Eekhoff, Joris Nieuwenhuis, Marco Haller, André Greipel, Carlos Barbero, Omer Goldstein, Max Walscheid, Simon Clarke, Danny van Poppel, Boy van Poppel, Daniel Oss, Ide Schelling, Lukas Pöstlberger, Petr Vakoc, Mikkel Bjerg, Vegard Stake Laengen, Dmitriy Gruzdev, Christopher Juul-Jensen,
On the road: Casper Pedersen, Jasper Philipsen, Stefan Bissegger, Davide Ballerini, Kristian Sbaragli, Guillaume Boivin, Edward Theuns, Benoît Cosnefroy, Luke Durbridge, Luka Mezgec, Philippe Gilbert, Fred Wright, Jonas Rickaert, Carlos Verona, Marc Hirschi, Greg Van Avermaet, Iván García Cortina, Maxime Chevalier, Christophe Laporte, Pierre-Luc Périchon, Connor Swift, Jorge Arcas, Anthony Perez, Cyril Barthe, Bruno Armirail and Harry Sweeny.
There are two time checks. The first in Pomerol after 7.6km, then another in Montagne after 20.1km, 10.7km from the finishing line.
H ello and welcome to our live rolling blog from stage 20 at the Tour de France, the 30.8km time trial from Libourne to Saint-Émilion.
Just two more stages of this year’s Tour de France remain, starting with this afternoon’s ‘race of truth’ through the famous vineyards around Saint-Émilion. The final destination of the various jerseys will most likely not be determined by today’s time trial, though that’s not to say the leading protagonists will be soft-pedalling their way around the fairly flat and non-technical course. For the penultimate time at this year’s Tour, here’s a quick reminder of who will be wearing what as respective leader in each of the four main classifications – in other words those that have jerseys.
T adej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) has the maillot jaune , the leader’s yellow jersey, for a 12th day running with an almost unassailable margin of 5min 45sec. Barring a spectacular collapse, the 22-year-old will be taking home a second successive maillot jaune back to Slovenia after the race finishes in Paris on Sunday.
M ark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step) will be dressed in green as leader in the points classification.
A fter winning Thursday’s mountain-top stage on the hors catégorie Luz Ardiden, Pogacar wrested the maillot à pois , the polka dot jersey awarded to the leader in the mountains classification, off the shoulders of Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious). With just one more point available in that competition during Sunday’s final stage all Pogacar needs to do to take home the maillot à pois is finish today and tomorrow’s stage within the respective time limits.
A s overall leader of the race, Pogacar also tops the best young rider classification, although Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) will wear the Slovenian’s maillot blanc , the white jersey, as second best.
F or anybody that missed Matej Mohoric’s second stage win at this year’s race on Friday, you can relive the highlights here . . .
So, what’s on today’s menu?
W ith just 240 metres in vertical elevation gained over the 30.8-kilometre course from Libourne to Saint-Émilion it is a route that favours the classic time trial specialists. The weather forecast looks good and so none of the riders should have to contend with wet roads as Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) had to do so during the stage five time trial that was won, by some distance, by Pogacar.
F or Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) today represent a final hit out before his assaults on the Olympic Games where the Belgian is eyeing the time trial title, while other specialists such as Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and the aforementioned Bissegger will also be hoping to challenge.
A s is traditional with time trials in stage races, riders will roll down the starting ramp in reverse order of their standing in the general classification, and so lanterne rouge Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-Quick Step), who starts the day in 142nd spot four hours 53min 15sec behind the maillot jaune , sets off first at 12.05pm (BST). The last man to get his time trial under way will be race leader Pogacar who sets off at 4.19pm. Full running order can be found below . . .
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