Tour de France

Tour de France (17)

Peter Sagan has seen his Tour de France preparations take a hit after testing positive for COVID-19 less than two weeks before the start of the race.

Seven-time Tour de France green jersey winner Sagan was forced to abandon the Tour de Suisse on Saturday due to a third positive coronavirus test in 18 months.

The Slovakian, who holds the record for the most points classification victories in the Tour de France (seven), took to Twitter to announce he had contracted the virus on Sunday.

"Yesterday, Saturday, after the finish of stage seven of the Tour de Suisse, I was given a COVID-19 test by the Team TotalEnergies doctor," he wrote.

"Unfortunately, it came out positive. I have no symptoms, and I feel well but I have to abandon the race. I thank you for your support and I will keep you posted."

Sagan becomes the latest name in a growing list of riders to contract the virus, with INEOS Grenadiers' Tom Pidcock and Bora-Hansgrohe's Aleksandr Vlasov also testing positive for COVID-19.

Vlasov was leading the Tour de Suisse at the time of his withdrawal, while Mikkel Bjerg – team-mate of two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar – withdrew from the Tour of Slovenia due to coronavirus.

Sagan will hope to recover in time for the start of the Tour de France in Copenhagen on July 1, having ended a 13-month winless drought with his sprint victory at stage three in Grenchen earlier this week.

Egan Bernal says he is "happy to be alive" and is "starting to feel like a cyclist again" as he steps up his recovery from a horror crash.

The 25-year-old required multiple surgeries after sustaining a fractured vertebra, a fractured right femur, a fractured right patella, chest trauma, a punctured lung, and several fractured ribs when he collided with a parked bus at high speed on a training ride in Colombia.

Bernal, who won the won the 2019 Tour de France and the 2021 Giro d'Italia, was originally told by doctors that there was a "95 per cent chance" of him being left paralysed by the crash.

Just days after being pictured on the road for the first time in two months, an emotional Bernal opened up on his recovery.

"I actually received an important lesson from this accident, so absurdly I'm actually thankful for having lived through this experience," Bernal said, speaking at a 'Ride With Egan' event held on the virtual cycling platform Zwift.

"I'm happy to be alive and little by little I'm starting to feel like a cyclist again. 

"I want to say thanks to all the people who wrote to me and sent me positive energy, they really helped me. 

"Having the energy and support of an entire country, of so many people in cycling from around the world and especially of my loved ones, has allowed me to move forward and contradict the first terrible diagnoses of the doctors."

Bernal explained the accident had allowed him to view life in a different way, acknowledging his aim of being "the best rider in the world" had faded into irrelevance when he was faced with the life-threatening consequences of the collision.

"The accident allowed me to see things from a different perspective," Bernal added. "Before, I was only focused on cycling and being the best rider in the world. But the real priority in life is to feel good and be able to be with those who love us.

"When you are attached to a ventilator you feel fragile and vulnerable, only then do you really value what you previously underestimated or took for granted.

"Now, I send my strength to those who are suffering. We must have patience and give the right consideration to what happens to us in life. 

"Being forced to miss races can be traumatic, but it is more important to still be in this world, surrounded by the affection of family and friends. Sometimes we forget what really matters."

The INEOS Grenadiers rider was, however, reluctant to set a date for his competitive return.

"I don't know what the recovery time will be. I don't want to rush or set a date for my return, it wouldn't be ideal given everything that has happened," he added.

"Clearly I hope to recover as soon as possible, but I have to listen to my body. Before thinking about getting back to winning, I have to get back to full health and finish a race. That would already be an important success.

"I hope I'm not afraid to do what I love.

"I don't know if when I go back to going fast I'll be scared or not. For now, I've only done a few rides. Fear was certainly not the first sensation I felt when I got back in the saddle. Instead, it was pure happiness."

Chris Hoy has labelled Mark Cavendish's spectacular Tour de France comeback as "one of the greatest" in sporting history.

Cavendish, a silver medallist on the track for Great Britain at the 2016 Olympic Games, made a stunning return to Le Tour in 2021.

Having not featured in the race since 2018, Cavendish came in as a late replacement for Deceuninck-QuickStep and landed four stage wins, seeing him match the great Eddy Merckx's career record of 34 stage victories that had stood since 1975.

Indeed, Cavendish went into the final stage with the opportunity to surpass Merckx, though he could only finish third in a sprint finish on the Champs-Elysees. He nevertheless took the green jersey for the second time in his career.

It was an unlikely road back for 36-year-old Cavendish, who just last week became the oldest winner of the Milano-Torino.

"Oh, I think Mark Cavendish's comeback last year was one of the greatest in sport we've ever seen," Hoy, one of Great Britain's greatest Olympians, told Stats Perform.

"It was, I don't think even he had really thought that he was gonna have such an impact, and to be called in so late in the year. He had a really solid year, started winning again, he got his confidence back.

"But I don't think that he even envisaged that he would be competing in the Tour de France, let alone winning multiple stages and equalling the greatest of all time in many people's eyes.

 

"He's having a fantastic year this year as well, but regardless of what he does from now on he is a legend of the sport and that will not change. An extra Tour de France stage win is what he wants, but it wouldn't make him any more of a legend in my eyes.

"I'm sure for most of the cycling community his place is already cemented forever. He is a proper legend of the sport."

For Hoy, Cavendish's legacy is secured around the globe.

"I think Mark has real global appeal," Hoy said. "He's well known in the UK and has a huge following over here, but equally wherever he goes, wherever he competes, because of the way he raced, because he's so exciting, because there's always drama surrounding him.

"He either wins or there's always some controversy or something. It is great for the sport. I think the best thing about his comeback is seeing how much it means to him and the emotion, because sport is nothing without emotion.

"If somebody wins just routinely, and it becomes almost easy looking, even if it's not, but if it appears to be easy and there's no emotion, then it's hard for the public to get behind that. But for Cav, he's always had that emotion, people love to see how much it means to him.

"We've never seen Cav quite as emotional as when he won his first stage of the Tour last year, it was incredible."

Two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar has signed a new deal to remain with UAE Team Emirates until 2027.

The Slovenian has worn the yellow jersey down the Champs Elysees at the last two editions of the Tour, also claiming the mountains classification in both.

Pogacar, who is still only 22, took bronze in the Tokyo 2020 men's road race and has now secured his long-term future with the team he joined in 2019.

"I'm really happy to be able to commit my future to the team and stay here for the next years," he told his team's official website. "I feel at home here, it feels like a big family.

"This team is a really good fit for me and I am fortunate to say that I have not only found colleagues but friends.

"I'm excited for the years ahead and what they will bring, hopefully more success for me and for the team. I hope we are inspiring lots of kids to ride bikes."

Mark Cavendish could not secure a 35th Tour de France stage win to break Eddy Merckx's record as Matej Mohoric prevailed on stage 19 to claim his second victory of this year's race.

Cavendish, 36, was tipped to break the all-time record for stage wins, set by Merckx in 1975, but he will now have to wait for the opportunity on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday.

Under 48 hours after Bahrain Victorious had their team hotel and bus raided, Mohoric's triumph – his second and the team's third win at this year's Tour – resembled a procession as he cruised home with a near one-minute advantage.

A sprint finish in Libourne to conclude the 207km route seemed perfect for Cavendish to create history, yet his team, Deceuninck-QuickStep, did not manage the breakaway effectively this time.

Mohoric was part of the initial group to break clear inside the final 100km before that section of riders halved in size with 30km to go.

Five kilometres later, the Slovenian seized the initiative as he produced another long-range attack to secure the lead, remaining untroubled as he eased to the finish.

With Cavendish back in the peloton, it was Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) and Casper Pedersen (Team DSM) who claimed second and third respectively in the sprint.

Yellow jersey holder Tadej Pogacar had an easy time of it, as his procession into Paris gets well and truly underway.

Barring any problems in Saturday's time trial, Pogacar is a certainty for the general classification, king of the mountains and young rider triumphs.

STAGE RESULT

1. Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious) 4:19:17
2. Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) +0:58
3. Casper Pedersen (Team DSM) +0:58
4. Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) +:1:02
5. Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) +1:08

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 79:40:09
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:45
3. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +5:51

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 304
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 269
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) 216

King of the Mountains

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 107
2. Wouter Poels (Bahrain Victorious) 88
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) 82

What's next?

A shorter and flatter route than last year’s ride to La Planche des Belles Filles, the 31km time trial towards Saint Emilion will suit the specialists in this discipline and is unlikely to be as dramatic as the last Tour’s equivalent test, which saw Pogacar snatch victory from Primoz Roglic.

Tadej Pogacar sealed the king of the mountains jersey and consolidated his dominance of this year's Tour de France with a second successive stage win.

Defending champion Pogacar stormed to victory up the Col du Portet on Wednesday and, a day later, he was charging clear of nearest general classification rivals Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) to clinch another summit success.

On the final mountain stage before the Tour rolls towards Paris, UAE Team Emirates rider Pogacar was in a four-man breakaway with around 700 metres to go, and it was at that stage he made his move.

With Movistar's Enric Mas having run out of gas, Pogacar propelled himself through into the final part of the second hors categorie climb of Thursday's 129km route through the Pyrenees.

Pogacar was able to enjoy his win as he went over the line, with Vingegaard nipping ahead of Carapaz into second place – another repeat from Wednesday.

With the Luz Ardiden climb the final mountain of this year's Tour, Pogacar also won the race for the polka-dot jersey, taking it from Wouter Poels.

It capped a troubling day for Bahrain Victorious, whose team hotel and coach was raided by French police.

The only chance of Pogacar letting his grasp on the yellow jersey slip will come in Saturday's time trial. The equivalent stage last year saw Primoz Roglic lose his lead to Pogacar, who will almost certainly win the general classification, mountains classification, and young rider's classification for the second straight year.

"Why should I be worried, sometimes you can have a really bad day on a TT, let's hope it’s not a repeat," said Pogacar, who is only the fourth rider to win consecutive summit finishes at the Tour

"It was a game for me since I started, I'm enjoying playing it."

The day's intermediary sprint gave Mark Cavendish cause for celebration, as he took 11 points with a fifth-place finish, seeing Michael Matthews lose ground in the hunt for the green jersey.

Cavendish, and his Deceuninck–Quick-Step team-mates, coasted over the line with six minutes to spare before the time cut off, and will now aim for a record-setting win on Friday.

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 75:00:22
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:45
3. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +5:51

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 298
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 260
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) 208

King of the Mountains

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 107
2. Wouter Poels (Bahrain Victorious) 88
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) 82

What's next?

A 207km rolling route follows on Friday, which should result in a sprint finish in Libourne – Cavendish is the rider to watch, as he looks to make it 35 stage victories at the Tour de France.

French police carried out searches as they targeted the Bahrain Victorious team in Pau ahead of stage 18 of the Tour de France.

The reason for the raid on the team hotel has not been announced.

Team chiefs confirmed officers requested training information and searched rooms of the cyclists.

A Bahrain Victorious statement read: "On the eve of stage 18 of Tour de France, Team Bahrain Victorious were subject to an investigation by French police. The team were monitored by a number of officers following their arrival after stage 17 to the team hotel in Pau.

"The investigation involved a search of riders' rooms as part of the process. Despite being unaware of the investigation reasons, the team was also requested to provide all training files which were compiled and presented to the officers as requested."

Technical director Vladimir Miholjevic stressed there had been no wrongdoing on the part of the team and said the police action had been a disruption to planning for Thursday's stage.

He said: "Following stage 17, we were greeted by several French police officers. We were not given a warrant to read through, but the team complied with all the officers' requests.

"We are committed to highest level of professionalism and adherence to all regulatory requirements and will always be cooperating in a professional manner.

"The process had impacted our riders' recovery and meal planning and as a professional team, the well being of our team is a key priority."

 

The team's highest-ranking rider overall in this year's tour is Peio Bilbao, who sat 10th in the individual general classification going into Thursday's journey from Pau to Luz Ardiden.

Wouter Poels held top spot in the king of the mountains rankings, while Sonny Colbrelli was third in the points standings.

Bahrain Victorious, who had stage wins earlier in the Tour by Matej Mohoric and Dylan Teuns, stood collectively in first place in the team classification.

Tadej Pogacar took another giant leap towards defending his Tour de France title with victory up the Col du Portet on stage 17.

The UAE Team Emirates rider benefited from excellent work by his team-mates on the brutal 178.4 kilometre route, which started in Muret.

Rafal Majka in particular was worthy of great praise in aiding the cause of Pogacar, setting the Slovenian up brilliantly to push for the stage win on the final hors categorie climb.

Anthony Perez, the lone man remaining from the breakaway, was reeled in on the last of the three ascents with 8.5km remaining.

It was Pogacar, Jumbo-Visma's Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz of INEOS Grenadiers, who emerged as the frontrunners for the stage.

Despite dealing with gradients of 13 per cent, Pogacar always looked comfortable and there was never any doubt he would respond when Carapaz attacked 1.5km from a finish 2,215km above sea level, the highest of this year's Tour de France.

There was an element of surprise to that move, Carapaz having done little to help Pogacar and Vingegaard manage the climb while looking on the verge of being dropped.

But Pogacar called his bluff and it was he who clearly had the most left in the tank, surging clear in the final 200 metres to claim his second stage win of this year's Tour.

His lead at the top of the general classification stands at five minutes and 39 seconds from Vingegaard with three stages left before the final processional ride to the Champs-Elysees on Sunday.

STAGE RESULT

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 5:03:31
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +0:03
3. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +0:04
4. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) +:1:19
5. Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroen Team) +1:26

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 71:26:27
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:39
3. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +5:43

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 287
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 251
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) 201

King of the Mountains

1. Wouter Poels (Bahrain Victorious) 78
2. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 67
3. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) 66

What's next?

Does Pogacar have enough left in his legs for another hors categorie finish. The penultimate and final ascents are on the 129.7km ride from Pau to Luz Ardiden are each HC climbs as the Tour sees it's final mountain stage of 2021.

Given his lead in the GC, Pogacar does not need to make such an effort, but he might have the appetite for another win to emphasise his dominance on stage 18.

Bauke Mollema reigned supreme as the Tour de France entered the Pyrenees, storming to a superb solo victory on stage 14 from Carcassonne to Quillan.

Mollema secured a second Tour win after his triumph on the ride to Le Puy-en-Velay in 2017, with this success coming in similar fashion.

The Dutchman made a decisive break, riding the final 40 kilometres out on his own at an average speed of 43.4km/h for that section, while he took on the last 25km in solitary fashion four years ago.

"Its super nice. It's amazing to win a stage again, I'm super happy," said a Trek-Segafredo's Mollema after prevailing by one minute and four seconds from Patrick Konrad and Sergio Andres Higuita in second and third respectively on the 183.7km route.

"It was as super hard day. It took so long until the break finally went

"It was a nice group but we were not working together so well. So I thought, 'let's go'. I did like 45km alone so it was hard, but I'm super happy."

Guillaume Martin came in +1:28 down in the chasing group, an effort that saw him move up to second in the general classification.

Martin, of Cofidis, is the only rider within five minutes of reigning champion Tadej Pogacar in the Yellow Jersey, making up enough time on the final climb of the Col de Saint-Louis to drop Rigoberto Uran down to third.

Michael Woods and Wout Poels were part of the 14-rider breakaway from which Mollema emerged and pushed their King of the Mountains claims, battling for points in each of the classified climbs.

Israel Start-Up Nation's Woods claimed the haul he needed to take the lead in that contest from Nairo Quintana and Poels, even if this success was somewhat tempered by him crashing on the descent of the Col du Castel.

Once the Canadian re-joined the breakaway it soon became clear he and his colleagues had no answer to Mollema.

STAGE RESULT

1. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) 04:16:29
2. Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) +1:04
3. Sergio Andres Higuita (EF Education-Nippo) +1:04 
4. Mattia Cattaneo (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +1:06
5. Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) +1:10

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 56:50:12
2. Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) +4:04
3. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +5:18

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 279
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 187
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 174

King of the Mountains

1. Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) 54
2. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) 50
3. Wouter Poels (Bahrain Victorious) 49

What's next?

Sunday's 15th stage is set to be a particularly gruelling affair, with three category one climbs included in the 191.3km ride from Ceret to Andorre-la-Vieille. The second of those is Port d'Envalira, the highest point on this year's Tour at 2,408m above sea level.

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