The self proclaimed greatest race in all of Professional Cycling comes to an end on the Champs-Élysées as is tradition and the winners will take to one of the most famous podiums in the world. The last three weeks have been interesting to say the least, and the Jerseys are on our champions. The winners of each classification however does not tell us the whole story, and I am here to give my customary Post Mortem and talk about our winners and our losers, just like last year. This was subsequently my first post on the website, so happy anniversary to me!
The True Face of Dominance
Yellow Jersey – Tadej Pogacar
We begin with the overall Classification, the Yellow Jersey and the most famous jersey in sporting history. Usually the closest fought prize on the Tour, the GC teams will be conducting their own post mortem of this race and asking themselves one thing? How in the world do you beat a rider who almost seems not human. Tadej Pogacar is the man of the hour, however this race was not won in the mountains as is the norm, he won it on stage 5 on the Time Trial.
Following stage 5 Pogacar had a lead of 1 minute and 43 seconds over the man who would eventually come second Jonas Vingegaard and while the race behind him was in constant flux, he never felt like he destined for anything but Yellow. His challengers fell by the wayside, a big crash for Geraint Thomas and Primoz Roglic, and then into the mountains perennial contenders like Rigoberto Uran fell apart. The closest rivals came in the form of Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz who are second and third respectively in Paris, but when it was all said and done neither came within 5 minutes of him. Was this Tour harder, no, Pogacar just came here to destroy and dominate and he did both at the first opportunity.
Big Winner – Jonas Vingegaard
You thought this was going to be Tadej Pogacar didn’t you, well I will let you in on a little secret, until I started writing, I did too. The thing is, Pogacar showed that last year was not a fluke, but more a well timed attack, whereas this year he came as the favourite and proved it, Vingegaard arrived as a Domestique and similar to Tao Geoghegan Hart at the Giro d’Italia in 2020 had to assume control following his leader leaving the race. Vingegaard did this without fanfare and without much support in the form of his weakened team and still announced himself as a contenders for the future.
Big Loser – Rigoberto Uran
This Tour unlike any I can remember was over before it began, and that meant the podium was the goal for the other Contenders not named Tadej Pogacar. Rigoberto Uran is always there or thereabouts in the Grand Tours and following Stage 9 found himself over 5 minutes behind but sat in provisional 3rd place. Moving into 2nd, he held the time gap of 5 minutes and 18 seconds until the first real mountain of the Pyrenees, when on stage 17 he managed to lose just under 2 minutes after being dropped by our final top 3. It would be fine though, surely the great Uran would hold off the rest and finish in a somewhat disappointing 4th. The second mountain of the Pyrenees would prove to be his undoing, and by the end of the time trial, he was over 18 minutes behind Pogacar and barely managing to hold on to 10th place. At 34 years old, has time finally caught up with the man from Colombia.
Rolling back the Years
Green Jersey – Mark Cavendish
He only equalled the record, with Wout Van Aert playing spoilers in Paris, but let’s track back for a moment here. He only EQUALLED the record, that means he is now on par with Eddy Merckx, the greatest cyclist in the history of cycling. Both now have 34 wins at the Tour de France, which is almost impossible. Before the start of the this Tour, Cavendish was not even on the start list, without a win in 3 years and nothing on the Tour for 5 years, the race for the record was over. A miracle inclusion, 4 victories and a Green Jersey, Cav is back!
I cannot believe I am about to write this, but today there is a tinge of disappointment for fans of the Manx Missile, he had the chance in Paris to break the record and stand atop the list of great winners on the Tour de France, it was not meant to be but Mark Cavendish has show everyone that no matter what, self belief is the most important thing. Even when it seemed like it was all over, one man never stopped believing in himself, that man is in green in Paris!
Big Winner – Mark Cavendish
This is not even a question, coming back from obscurity to dominate in such a fashion, Cav showed he is back and he is ready to compete with the best and brightest again. This was his Tour, a homecoming of sorts and his heroics will not soon be forgotten. We cannot forget the work of his incredible team too, Deceuninck Quick-Step, they controlled the race and delivered Cavendish to the stage win four times, and he was the first to thank them.
Big Loser – Sam Bennett
The reigning Green Jersey champion was a late scratch from the Tour de France, and he was coming as favourite to defend the Jersey. His replacement Mark Cavendish brought it home, however it cannot be stressed how this now reflects on Sam Bennett. When he was replaced no one expected anything from the Brit, except maybe a few top 10s and his face in the Peloton, however with the resurgence in form Sam Bennett is now expendable. With news he will leave the Wolfpack in 2022, the amount of suitors looking for a dominant sprinter may have lessened, since his teammate showed it is really not that hard.
A Mountain of Disappointment
Polka Dot Jersey – Tadej Pogacar
This is a somewhat misleading title, as the King of the Mountains competition has been the most exciting it has been in a number of years, with Ide Schelling animating the race early. While he fell out of contention fairly fast, the race of the Polka Dots continued at an alarming high pace. No less than 7 men wore the famed jersey in this edition of the race, and every single day we witnessed a race up those mountains for the precious points. The battle truly began following Stage 8 when Wout Poels took the jersey and although Nairo Quintana and Michael Woods took it off his shoulders, he fought back and looked the favourite to show that for years one of the best Domestiques in the world was a true climber. This however is where the disappointment ends what was an incredible competition.
The decision to give double points to summit finishes is just asinine, and proves how out of tough the organises are with how these Jerseys should be awarded. Throughout this Tour de France we have watched these riders chase glory and work so hard in the difficult of conditions, fighting for every point. The Hors catégorie or ‘beyond classification’ climbs are those so difficult they demand to be uncategorised. These can come anywhere in a race, but the difficulty remains, this is however where the problem is. If they come in the middle of a race day they are worth 20 points for the first person over the summit, if however they end a stage the points are doubled. This is where all the fighting through 3 weeks came to nought when with two stage wins at summit finishes Tadej Pogacar took the Jersey he was not even competing for. This competition needs a revamp, and it needs it now.
Surely the man who crosses the most Mountains first is the king, therefore Wout Poels should come and claim his crown!
Big Winner – Wout Poels
For years and years, Poels was part of the engine room of a truly dominant Team Sky. A Domestique during their years of destruction of the Peloton, he managed the race with expert precision. Froome was the poster boy, and Geraint Thomas his closest lieutenant, however no move started without Wout Poels. During those Tours he proved he could climb, and after leaving Team Sky, he has had the opportunity to show what he can do when he gets the freedom to ride. This is not meant to take away from Pogacar’s achievements, however Poels showed he can dominate when he needs to and even though he is 33, I think he may have something left in the tank.
Big Loser – Wout Poels
Awarding both awards to Wout Poels shows just how wrong the organisers got this competition and more importantly the points distribution. Poels deserved this jersey, he fought every day to win it, matching and bettering all his rivals on route to what should have been his moment of glory in Paris. He ended up losing it by 19 points, which if we redistribute the points at the top of the HC climbs to how they should be we would remove 40 points from Pogacar, giving Poels the win by 20 points, his dominance for all but 2 stages will be forgotten, and that in itself feels like a crime.
A Jersey without recognition
I have made my feelings for this jersey abundantly clear, and you can read it here. It is difficult to not be disappointed with the way that these Jerseys are awarded, especially since you can compete in this competition to the age of 26 years old. Firstly that is not a young rider, but that is beside the point. The Winner of the Tour if they are below this threshold take the White Jersey alongside the Winners jersey and honestly it just does not make sense. This Jersey is supposed to symbolise the need wave of riders and yet it is forgotten as quickly as Pogacar will don it following his 2021 heroics.
Again similar to the Polka Dot jersey, this is in no way to take away from Tadej Pogacar, he is only 22 years old and his achievements are incredible. He is a young riders and he is already a two-time champion, however imagine for a moment if by winning the overall prize he was exempt from this Jersey. Then it would have gone to Jonas Vingegaard, a rider who announced himself at this Tour and was clearly second in the race. He deserves recognition for his ride following the demise of his team in the General Classification, the recognition should be there.
Big Winner – None
There is no winner of this competition, while Tadej Pogacar will conduct himself with pride when he receives this Jersey, similar to the Polka Dots, he will remove these as quickly as they are attached to him. This is because he only cares about Yellow, that is the jersey he was aiming for, that is the jersey he won and that is the only Jersey anyone will ask him about.
Big Loser – Anyone under 26
Firstly, let’s change the young rider to maximum 23 years old, if not 21. Riders are turning Professional younger and they are better than they have ever been. If this Jersey is not revamped it will be eliminated within the next 5 years. Make the award something that is actually something to race for, instead of an afterthought for the winner of the Overall race. A Post Mortem is needed for this more than anything else.
There we have it, my post mortem of the 2021 Tour de France is complete. An incredible 3 weeks of racing is in the books, with some surprises to boot. Next up it is the Olympics and then the continuation of the 2021 UCI season. You know what? I absolutely love cycling!!
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