Tadej Pogacar has described the Tour de France 2022 route as "a complete course" as the two-time champion looks to claim a third title in a row.

The new route for the 109th edition of the Tour was revealed in Paris on Thursday and totals 53 kilometres, including two individual time trials and five mountain-top finishes.

Pogacar, speaking at the route's unveiling in the French capital, said he was "excited" at the prospect of the course. 

"It's pretty great. It's a complete course," the 23-year-old Slovenian said. "From the first stage to the last stage, we have everything: sprints, echelons, cobbles, big climbs, small climbs, time trials. 

"I'm really looking forward to it. I'll do some recons because it will be necessary after we saw what's on the plan. I'm pretty excited."

Pogacar joined an exclusive club of cyclists last week by claiming victory at the Giro di Lombardia, having retained his Tour de France title in July, to become the first rider in 42 years to win both competitions in the same season.

Fausto Coppi, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault are among the illustrious names to have previously achieved the feat.

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 delivered such an incredible comeback at the Tour de France that he sits alongside cycling royalty in the history books.

Cavendish had last featured at the Tour de France in 2016, and was not expecting to ride in the event this year. Indeed, he had even hinted retirement may be a possibility following a loss of form and several bouts of injury.

Yet, after a late substitution in for Deceuninck-QuickStep and four stage wins later, Cavendish had served up a welcome reminder of his excellence.

"I found out just a week before the Tour de France started and that was that," Cavendish said. "We didn't know what was happening with Sam Bennett's knee so I was just training as if I was going but with a 99 per cent probability that I wasn't going."

Belgian great Eddy Merckx's record of 34 stage victories had stood since 1975, but the flurry of wins for Cavendish over the past three weeks means he has matched that total.

There was to be no last hurrah on the final stage for Cavendish, as he gritted his teeth but could only cross the line third in Sunday's sprint on the Champs Elysees. Consolation came with green jersey glory for the second time in his career, the king of the sprinters in the 2021 Tour.

Perhaps next year he will be back with a 35th win in his sights. Here, Stats Perform looks back at Cavendish's stage triumphs so far.

2008

In his first professional season, Cavendish started as he meant to go on at Le Tour, winning four stages. His first came in stage five at the culmination of a 232km route. He followed that up with successes in stages eight, 12 and 13 before he abandoned the tour ahead of competing at the Beijing OIympics.

2009

After becoming the first British rider to wear the general classification leader's pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia, Cavendish's dominance of the sprints in grand tours really clicked into gear. He won a sensational six stages of Le Tour in 2009, including his first of four on the bounce on the Champs-Elysees. In the process, he also set a new record for Tour de France stage wins by a British rider.

2010

Five stage victories followed in 2010, even though Cavendish crashed out of the final sprint on the opening day. The Manx rider won stages five, six, 11, 18 and 20 to take his total to 15 over three appearances at Le Tour, though his efforts were not enough to claim the green jersey.

2011

Cavendish did clinch the green jersey the following year, despite being docked 20 points for finishing outside the time limit after stage nine and again after 18. Triumphant efforts in stages five, seven, 11, 15 and 21 took his career total to 20.

2012 

Wearing the world champion's rainbow jersey, Cavendish crossed the line first on the Champs-Elysees for the fourth year running, earning his third stage win of the 2012 Tour. He became the most successful sprinter in Tour history with 23 wins, as well as being the first rider to win the Paris stage while wearing the rainbow jersey.

 

2013

Cavendish won stage five in Marseille, though he had to withstand being drenched with urine by a spectator on stage 11 – cycling is not a sport for the faint-hearted, after all. The 28-year-old also went on to win stage 13, though a fifth straight triumph in Paris eluded him.

2015

The 2014 Tour ended quickly for Cavendish as, in the sprint finish in Harrogate – Yorkshire having hosted the Grand Depart – he crashed out and suffered a shoulder injury. He bounced back in 2015 to win his 26th stage, nipping in ahead of Andre Greipel in Fougeres.

2016

After three quiet years at Le Tour by his standard, Cavendish was back at his blistering best in 2016, and completed his set of overall classification lead jerseys in Grand Tours when he clinched the opening stage in Normandy. A victory in stage three saw him equal Bernard Hinault's tally, with further celebrations following in stage six and 14, before he went on to claim his first Olympic medal with silver in the Rio omnium.

2021

Back from five years in the wilderness, when Merckx's record must have seemed cruelly so close yet so far away, Cavendish reminded everyone of his talent with a win in stage four, and two days later, he had scooped his 50th stage success at a Grand Tour. The win in Valence on stage 10 ensured that no, this was no joke and, after he matched Merckx in Carcassonne, Cavendish had 34 victories. He was terribly close in Paris to what would have been a glorious 35th, but for now he must settle for sharing illustrious company.

Tadej Pogacar said he felt "super happy" after putting the finishing touches to a second successive Tour de France triumph.

The 22-year-old Slovenian had led the general classification from stage eight, and 15 days down the road in Paris he wrapped up a supremely impressive performance.

As well as the top prize, Pogacar also collected the king of the mountain and young rider honours, and it is hard to imagine there not being abundant further success to come over the next decade.

Pogacar spoke on the podium after his win, saying: "Last year I should have written a speech for my first Tour de France victory but I didn't know how to write it.

"So also this year I said, 'OK, I'm going to speak from the heart and say what I have to say'.

"Thank you everybody that came here to support us cyclists through all the three weeks. To the French public and all fans of cycling from the whole world, it is so fantastic racing on the amazing parcours of the Tour this year."

He thanked his team, UAE Team Emirates, for helping him achieve the goals they set out to reach.

"I cannot describe how happy I am to be part of this family, it melts my heart," Pogacar said.

"They were with me every day of the whole year preparing for the Tour. I'm super happy and proud to be part of this team on this journey.

"I'm not going to cry. Thank you everybody. It was a difficult year with COVID and I really hope next year we come here without the masks.

"Of course I cannot forget my family, standing beside me, and my girlfriend and my friends. I hope I've told enough but I'm super happy. Thank you everybody."

Pogacar said it was "time for celebration".

"I will remain motivated in the coming years, but what come next will come next… I’m not stressed about it," Pogacar said, quoted on the Tour's official website.

"It's quite different. Last year, I felt strong, incredible emotions. This year I'm again here, standing atop the podium, but the feelings are quite different."

 

Tour great Eddy Merckx won the general classification five times from 1969 to 1974, and had such a ruthlessness he was nicknamed 'The Cannibal'.

Pogacar does not want to be compared to legends of the sport, insisting he should be allowed to plot his own career path.

"The new Cannibal? I don't like to compare myself to other riders," he said. "Each rider has his own style and personality. Every rider is unique. I don't think there is anything left. I just enjoy life, I work hard, I love cycling – and those are the most important things."

Pogacar did not quite secure a sweep of the Tour honours, with the green jersey – the points classification that rewards the best sprinters – going to 36-year-old Deceuninck-QuickStep star Mark Cavendish.

Cavendish's four stage victories took him level with the record of 34 that Merckx had owned exclusively for over 40 years.

"Ten years later, again with the green jersey, it's fantastic, it feels like getting younger," Cavendish said. "I'm back. It's a dream."

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."

Tadej Pogacar was unable to secure a time trial victory on stage 20 of the Tour de France but will complete the formality of back-to-back general classification triumphs in Paris on Sunday.

On last year's penultimate stage, Pogacar overhauled a 57 second deficit to fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic to snatch the Yellow Jersey, completing one of the most staggering turnarounds in the history of the race.

Such drama was never on the cards on the 31 kilometre route to Saint Emilion, given UAE Team Emirates' Pogacar boasted a lead in excess of five minutes, which Jonas Vingegaard trimmed slightly but not significantly as the race heads to its ceremonial conclusion in the French capital.

As such, he never had to pursue the stage win and its associated undue risk, with victory going to Wout van Aert in a time of 35 minutes and 53 seconds.

The Belgian rider has enjoyed a superb Tour and this was his second stage win – a sharply contrasting success to him twice conquering Mont Ventoux on a historic stage 11.

“It is quite something, winning a Tour de France time trial has been one of the biggest objectives in my career," Van Aert told ITV. "I've been really focused on this day in the last couple of days and I'm so happy that I can finish it off. The course was perfect for me."

Van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team-mate Vingegaard came in third, consolidating second place in the general classification standings, while fellow Dane Kasper Asgreen was runner-up on the day, 21 seconds in arrears.

Pogacar rolled in 57 seconds shy of Van Aert's mark in eighth, having long made this year's Yellow Jersey his own.

STAGE RESULT

1. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) 35:53
2. Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +0:21
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +0:32
4. Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) +:0:38
5. Nils Politt (EF Education-Nippo) +0:44

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 79:40:09
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:20
3. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +7:03

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?

Alongside Pogacar's coronation in Paris, much of the focus will be on whether Mark Cavendish can sprint to glory on the Champs Elysees and go clear of the great Eddy Merckx with a 35th stage win of his career.

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.

Sepp Kuss claimed his second ever stage victory as he triumphed at the Tour de France on Sunday, with Tadej Pogacar keeping control of the yellow jersey.

Jumbo-Visma's Kuss, who came into this year's Tour as a support rider for Primos Roglic, took his chance on the final, steepest climb of Stage 15, with around 20km of the 191.3km route into Andorra remaining.

The American rider – who won his previous Grand Tour stage in the 2019 Vuelta a Espana and is based in Andorra – held off competition from Alejandro Valverde, who looked good heading into the final descent of the day, only to burn out before he could catch Kuss.

Wouter Poels, who will take the polka dot jersey off Michael Woods, clinched third place in a sprint finish that also included Nairo Quintana.

Meanwhile, Pogacar expertly handled the general classification group, with Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) and Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) unable to close the gap.

It was a bad day for Guillaume Martin, who dropped from second in the GC to down to ninth, almost eight minutes adrift of Pogacar.

"I was really suffering a lot in this tour, I just didn't feel like I had the spice in the legs," said Kuss.

"Today I knew it was finishing where I live, I was really motivated for the stage and finally I had really good legs again, I'm so happy. 

"It was a hard day in the breakaway, I know the climb fairly well, I don't ride it so much in training because it's so hard. I knew the beginning was really tough, if I went there and got a gap I could try and hold it to the finish."

Supp's aim will now be to back Jonas Vingegaard, who kept Jumbo-Visma's dwindling GC hopes alive by moving himself into third, though he is still some way back from defending champion Pogacar.

STAGE RESULT

1. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) 5:12:06
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:23
3. Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) +1:15
4. Ion Izagirre (Astana) same time
5. Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education First) same time

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 62:07:18
2. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +5:18
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:32

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 279
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 207
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 174

King of the Mountains

1. Wouter Poels (Bahrain Victorious) 74
2. Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) 66
3. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) 64

What's next?

Monday sees the final rest day of this year's race, with Le Tour resuming with a 169km route from Pas de la Case to Saint-Gaudens on Tuesday.

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.

Mark Cavendish's incredible return to the Tour de France continued as he matched Eddy Merckx's record of 34 stage triumphs.

Cavendish, who won his first stage at the most famous of the grand tours back in 2008, has been one of the great success stories of this year's edition.

And, with two flat runs of the race to spare, the Deceuninck–Quick-Step rider scooped his fourth stage win of 2021 to equal Merckx's haul.

The Belgian great – a five-time Tour de France winner – set the record between 1969 and 1975.

Cavendish's record-equalling success came in Carcassonne at the culmination of stage 13's 220km route, with his team-mates executing a perfect lead-out in the final 1,500m.

Having established himself at the front of the peloton, Cavendish had to change his bike with around 35km to go, yet rallied back to be in place for the final push.

It came courtesy of Michael Morkov, who timed his burst to perfection, giving Cavendish the opportunity to sprint through the gap and clinch his record-equalling win in a photo finish, also becoming the first rider to win four stages of Le Tour at the age of 36 in the process.

Cavendish could yet surpass the record, with two more sprints to come in the final week. He has previously won a record four times on the Champs-Elysees finale in Paris.

In the general classification standings, Tadej Pogacar's controlled ride kept him in command of the yellow jersey.

There was drama further back in the stage as a crash with around 55km remaining resulted in three abandonments, including former Vuelta e Espana winner Simon Yates of Team BikeExchange.

IT'S LIKE MY FIRST ONE

Cavendish's career at the top level seemed to be over. Indeed, he even hinted at retirement following a run of poor form and illness in 2020.

Yet the 2016 Olympic silver medalist has reaffirmed his place as one of the greats with this extraordinary comeback. 

"It's tiring. I can't even think about it, I'm so dead, 220km in that heat, that wind. I went deep there, so deep, the boys were incredible. I don't believe it," an exhausted Cavendish said.

"A lot of the day I didn't feel like it was going to happen. The guys were riding like they were – I was so on the limit, you saw at the end – slightly uphill. I was lucky the lads just played it calm, I lost a little bit with about five km to go, it got a bit slippy I thought I'd punctured, but everyone else was like "it's the road", but we had to take it easy, I just lost a bit.

Asked if he had realised what his win meant, Cavendish added: "It's just another win on the Tour de France, it's like my first one – I've won a stage at the Tour de France, that's what I dreamed of as a kid, it's what I dream of now and I work so hard for it.

"I just hope, we've seen such a growth in cycling since I've started racing here, if any one of my wins can inspire kids to ride the Tour de France when they grow up, that's what means the most to me."

STAGE RESULT

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 05:04:29
2. Michael Morkov (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 
4. Ivan Garcia Conrtina (Movstar) 
5. Danny van Poppel (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux) 

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 52:27:12'
2. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +5:18
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:32

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 279
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 178
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 171

King of the Mountains

1. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) 50
2. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) 43
3. Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) 42

What's next?

The Tour heads into the Pyrenees over the weekend, with Saturday's 183.7km route taking the riders over five categorised climbs.

German Nils Politt produced a mighty ride to win stage 12 of the Tour de France on the day his Bora-Hansgrohe team lost star man Peter Sagan from the race.

The 27-year-old Politt held his nerve and showed impressive endurance to cross the line first in Nimes, after a 159.4-kilometre largely flat stage from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux.

The maiden tour win for Politt provided succour for his team, after Slovakian Sagan withdrew before the start, the seven-time Tour points classification winner bowing out due to a knee injury.

Politt formed part of a four-man breakaway with Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ), Imanol Erviti (Movistar) and Harry Sweeny (Lotto Soudal) that splintered over the closing 15km.

Erviti, a 37-year-old Spanish rider and Tour mainstay for over a decade, was chasing his first stage win in cycling's most famous race. For a while it was on, but he ultimately crossed the line in second place, with Sweeny third and Kung eventually a distant fourth.

Politt said on Eurosport: "It's unbelievable. It's a dream to win a stage in the Tour de France. We had to decide that Peter had to leave the race because of his knee problems, so it changed also a little bit of tactics.

"I've been feeling well in the last days and was trying to give my best today. There was quite a lot of sprinters in our group and quite a lot of fast guys.

"I had to do the race hard and I had to attack quite early. There was the first attack with four guys gone. I did it again and to go solo to the finish line was unbelievable.

"It's my passion, cycling, and for my whole family, and I'm away from home so much because of training camps and races and now it's like the biggest win you can have, winning a stage on the tour."

The outcome at the front of the race had no substantial impact on the general classification standings, with Tadej Pogacar remaining over five minutes ahead of closest rivals Rigoberto Uran and Jonas Vingegaard, as the Tour heads towards the Pyrenees.

The bulk of the field arrived in Nimes almost 16 minutes behind Politt, with Mark Cavendish producing a sprint to lead the peloton over the line.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) 3:22:12
2. Imanol Erviti (Movistar) +0:31
3. Harry Sweeny (Lotto Soudal)
4. Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) +1:58
5. Luka Mezgec (Team BikeExchange) +2:06

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 47:22:43
2. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +5:18
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:32

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 221
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 162
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 142

King of the Mountains

1. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) 50
2. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) 44
3. Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) 42

What's next?

The 219km ride from Nimes to Carcassonne has all the hallmarks of a relatively straightforward stage before the teams head into the Pyrenees over the weekend.

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