Three weeks ago we were in the thick of the final days of a thrilling Tour de France, which saw a second victory for Tadej Pogačar, and a comprehensive one at that. More than that, though, this was the Tour of Mark Cavendish’s astonishing comeback, Wout van Aert’s brilliance, Mathieu van der Poel’s yellow jersey and exciting breakaway action.
Relive the Tour, and all of the action, in the latest issue of Procycling magazine. Alongside a roundup of the race, there are features on Pogačar, Cavendish and the early star of this year’s race, Mathieu van der Poel. Also in this magazine are interviews with breakout GC rider Ben O’Connor and with the only sibling pair at this year’s race, Danny and Boy van Poppel. Alongside this, there are recaps of each stage and journals on various parts of the race, from returning fans to Nic Dlamini’s ride that saw him finish outside the time cut.
Procycling's editor Edward Pickering wrote about the Tour as a whole: “Pogačar was on a different level to his rivals at this Tour. For much of the rest of the race, until the two summit finishes in the Pyrenees and final time trial prised open the gaps a bit more, the Slovenian sat serenely on a five-minute lead, while the rest of the top 10 were separated by seconds. And since there was no comparison with anybody else in the race, Pogacar’s feat in putting over three minutes into the rest of the GC riders in little more than 30km on stage 8 drew parallels with Eddy Merckx.”
The Slovenian won three stages on the way to his crushing win, and never really looked in trouble on the way to his coronation. Kate Wagner writes that he has now completed his journey from boy prince to king.
She was in France to profile the two-time champion: “In fact, much of Pogačar is oddly normal. He’s not petit or compact or half-emaciated like most of his competition. For a bike racer, he’s rather stocky, and in normal clothes, one wouldn’t be able to tell that he was a bike racer at all. On the climbs, he can be rather ungraceful, bobbing around, pedalling, in the famous words of Tom Dumoulin, ‘like a coal miner’. And yet, despite this apparent inefficiency, he is exceptional. In a sport governed by arms races of technological advancement, marginal gains, and strategic brinkmanship, Tadej Pogačar simply rides his bike better than anyone else.”
Mark Cavendish’s four stage wins saw the great sprinter draw level with Eddy Merckx for Tour stage wins, a record that was thought to be unbreakable, especially as the Manxman never looked like returning to the top.
Edward Pickering writes of him: “The 2021 Tour was a medley of Cavendish’s greatest hits, especially in Châteauroux, where he won for the third time in his career. But we also saw all the other typical Cavendish tropes through the race: tears, highs, lows, fractiousness, memorable and engaged mixed zone interviews, intensity, righteous hugs, scowls and even a video uploaded to social media showing him quite spectacularly losing his rag with one of the DQS mechanics”
Mathieu van der Poel was another standout rider in this year’s race. The Dutchman won stage two and the yellow jersey with it, and remained in the race lead for the rest of the first week. While he pulled out to focus on the Olympics, his presence was felt by and even defined the first phase of the Tour.
“Mathieu van der Poel is the broomstick holder to the peloton’s proverbial wasp nest,” Kate Wagner writes. “He’s a chaos agent in the lull of the processional punching of timecards. Sometimes his signature moves - long-range digs at the start of a sprint that force the others to chase, daring solo breakaways in one-day races, attacking often for what seems to be the hell of it - don’t always fit the tacticians’ bill; but they are always spectacular, and when they pay off, especially so.”
One of the most impressive stages of this year was stage 11, in which Mont Ventoux was ascended twice, and conquered by Wout van Aert. Kate Wagner explores what Jumbo-Visma got right that day.
This year was the last year of La Course, and Sophie Hurcom spoke to two of its protagonists, Leah Kirchmann and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, who have ridden every edition.
Brittany was one of the highlights of this year’s Tour, and the stages there saw lots of animation. Edward Pickering takes a look at the chaos, and Adam Becket examines the crashes which were a theme of the whole race.
Another thread to explore from the Tour: the fatigue which seemed to affect lots of riders this edition; Adam Becket and Sophie Hurcom spoke to riders to find out just how hard it was.
Elsewhere, Adam Becket spoke to Ben O’Connor, the young Australian from Perth who rode to fourth place at his debut Tour de France. He said: “Everyone loves an underdog. To see the lesser known guy coming fourth, not far from the podium, although that's another level. I can't see why there isn't a chance I can get there, with the development I have taken each year. I can see the trajectory, so now I have so much hope. I can't even think about it now, though, because I just want to finish in Paris and lap this all up.”
There is also an interview with Danny and Boy van Poppel (done on the 30th anniversary of one of their father Jean-Paul’s Tour stage wins), an analysis of where it went wrong for Ineos Grenadiers, and a retro feature on Charly Mottet, one of France’s greatest ever cyclists, who comes from this year’s stage town of Valence.
Procycling magazine: the best writing and photography from inside the world’s toughest sport. Pick up your copy now in all good newsagents and supermarkets, or get a Procycling subscription.
Adam Becket is the staff writer for Procycling magazine, which is his first role in cycling journalism. Prior to covering the sport, he wrote about ecclesiastical matters for the Church Times and politics for Business Insider. He has degrees in history and journalism. A keen cyclist himself, Adam’s favourite race is the Tour of Flanders or Strade Bianche, and he is desperate to go to the Piazza del Campo for the end of the race one day.
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