Wout van Aert, three times Wout van Aert. On the Champs-Elysées, Sunday July 18, the Belgian deprived Mark Cavendish of a 35th success on the Grande Boucle. After a success in the mountains in Malaucène, then on Saturday in the time trial in Saint-Emilion, the handyman of Jumbo-Visma won his third stage in the Tour de France. Mark Cavendish, resuscitated on this Tour de France, will console himself with four stage victories and the green jersey for best sprinter.
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates), already winner in 2020, wins the general classification ahead of Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers). First Frenchman, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) finished 8th, 15’33 behind Pogacar.
The setting was ideal for Mark Cavendish, who this year became the equal of Eddy Merckx in terms of the number of stage wins on the Grande Boucle (34). His train, so precious in his four previous successes, was in place until the last 500 meters. But under the pressure put by Jumbo-Visma, the Cav ‘lost the wheel of its pilot fish, Michael Mørkøv. He then took Wout van Aert spinning to the finish line. Except that the Belgian pedal stroke was now well above that of the Briton. The man of Man could only see his superiority, shaking an angry fist at this missed historic opportunity.
This hitch will not prevent Mark Cavendish’s Tour from being a success, after five years of crossing the desert. The Champs-Elysées crowned another perhaps even more exceptional runner: Wout van Aert. His hat-trick at Ventoux, on a time trial, and on the Champs-Elysées is a feat from another era. That, precisely, of Eddy Merckx. Spiritual inheritor of the Cannibal by his versatility, Wout van Aert protected his record. Nice symbol.
Doubt will never really exist in this Tour de France. From the first stages, the defending champion Tadej Pogacar showed all his dominance. The Slovenian was helped by the falls of two of his main rivals, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), finally forced to retire, and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers). But could they really have challenged him for the yellow jersey? His victory over the time trial in Laval (5th stage) planted the first banderilla, his attack at Le Creusot (8th) brought down, metaphorically this time, his pursuers.
Airy, serene, Pogacar then only had to manage. Richard Carapaz, 3rd overall (+ 7’03), will have tried several times to take him down. Without success. Jonas Vingegaard, 2nd (+ 5’20) and revelation of this Tour de France, succeeded over a few hundred meters in the ascent of Ventoux. But, while in control, the new boss of the Tour took it back on the descent. His domination could not be satisfied with a single stage victory.
To drive the point home in the third week, Pogacar offered himself a mountain double in the Pyrenees, at the Col du Portet (17th stage) and Luz-Ardiden (18th stage). At 22 years and 10 months, the Slovenian finished his second Tour de France with more than 5 minutes ahead of his pursuers. Since 1997, only Vincenzo Nibali has done better (7’37 over Jean-Christophe Péraud in 2014). A hole.