I cannot describe how happy I am to be a part of this family. It melts my heart,” Pogacar said of his team on Sunday. “They were with me every day all year preparing for the Tour. I’m just super happy and proud to be a part of this team and this journey.”
A worthy champion
By Roger Childs
Last year a 21 year old Slovenian took over the lead from his compatriot Primoz Roglic, on the penultimate stage of the most famous bike race in the world and won the event. In 2021 he was back for more. There are four individual titles in the Tour and for the second year running Tadej Pogacar has won three of them:
- the yellow jersey for the overall winner in the general classification.
- the polka dot jersey for the “King of the Mountains”.
- the white jersey for the best young rider under 23.
The other one is the green jersey for the best sprinter and this year it was won be the “Manx Missile” – Mark Cavendish. It has been a memorable tour for the Englishman as he has equaled the record of 34 wins of the Belgian legend Eddie Mercx. In the final sprint on the Champs Elysees in Paris yesterday Cavendish could have broken the record, but he was edged out into third place.
Coming to a close
The 21st stage always starts in a town outside Paris and the riders dawdle into the capital. They chat and congratulate one another, and traditionally the jersey winners drink a glass of champagne. Coming into Paris itself the yellow jersey winner and his team ride at the front. This year 176 cyclists started the Tour in Brest three weeks ago, but 35 were forced to abandon, mainly because of injury, although some decided part way through to withdraw and focus on the upcoming Olympics.
The 141 survivors travelled through the full range of beautiful French landscapes; along the streets of hundreds of villages, towns and cities, and past scores of historic churches and chateaux. All along the way local communities and groups celebrated the tour with patterns in the farmland, flags, costumes and dances, and thousands of spectators dressed in clothes of the colours of the four jerseys.
Pogacar’s time for this year’s 3414 km event was an incredible 82 hours 56 minutes and 36 seconds!
Climax in the French capital
After the limitations on the crowd size because of the coronavirus last year, over 100,000 enthusiastic fans lined the Champs–Elysées to see the finish of the last stage in this year’s Tour.
The key interest in the final stage is who will win the final sprint and this year it was Belgian Wout van Aert. Mark Cavendish will need to come back next year to get the record for stage wins.
Following the final 10 laps of the Champs–Elysées, the finale was carried out with a combination of French flair, style and panache. There was
- the rousing playing of the magnificent Marseillaise
- the fly-past of eight jets streaming red, white and blue smoke
- The presentation of the trophies complete with statuesque beauties leading riders onto the podium dressed à la mode in appropriate coloured dresses to match the jerseys
- The playing of the Slovenian national anthem.
So the most famous event in the French sporting calendar is over for another year. In 2022 the Tour will start in Denmark and work its way across the Low Countries into north-east France.