Tour de France: Pogacar crowned as Cavendish misses out on beating Merckx record

By Sports Desk July 18, 2021

Tadej Pogacar clinched a second successive Tour de France general classification title as Mark Cavendish narrowly missed out on a record-breaking 35th stage win.

It was a racing certainty that Pogacar would be crowned on the Champs Elysees on Sunday after dominating the 21-stage tour, having secured top spot on Saturday ahead of the largely processional finale in Paris.

Cavendish made sure of the green jersey as the tour's top sprinter, but hopes of a 35th stage win were dashed when Wout van Aert snatched glory in the French capital.

Cavendish had powered from 30 stage wins at the start of the 2021 Tour to 34 during the course of the past three weeks, matching Eddie Merckx's long-standing record, but the Manxman could not nose ahead of Van Aert in a frantic finish.

Van Aert's success means his Belgian compatriot Merckx continues to hold a share of that stage-win record, and it raises the question of whether Cavendish will return in 2022 in an effort to take sole ownership.

The sprint was suitably phenomenal, with Jumbo-Visma's Van Aert keeping enough in reserve to get ahead of countryman Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), who took second, and third-placed Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep).

It means Van Aert became the first Tour rider since 1979 to win a sprint, a mountain stage and an individual time trial in the same edition of the race.

The time-trial success came on Saturday, and it was remarkable he had so much left in the tank 24 hours later.

Van Aert said on Eurosport: "This tour has just been amazing. It's been such a roller coaster, but to finish with a weekend like this is beyond expectations."

His next target will be an Olympic gold, with Van Aert revealing he was due to travel from Paris to Tokyo later on Sunday.

He realised after sealing victory that he would be a man in demand over the coming hours.

"I guess I put myself in trouble because I have to take a flight tonight," Van Aert added. "We'll see if I can get there.

"It's definitely not a pity. I went for it today because a victory like this is priceless."

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