Of course, among the incidents and crashes of the first few days there are explanations as to why Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) apparently won a second consecutive victory, but that will hardly reassure those who did not respond. expectations to. they held on to the start.When pre-race competitors are run over or literally fall apart, the debriefing can be an awkward place for everyone involved.
What became quite clear during the 2021 Tour de France is that Pogacar’s second crowning achievement was by no means the surprise of his first victory last year. There may have been rumors that he somehow stole the 2020 edition from Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), but that thinking cannot be applied remotely this time around.
He was quite simply the best driver in the race and if that continues to be the case which seems very likely then it will be difficult to beat him in the future. The debate over whether UAE Team Emirates was able to control the race or not was a distraction and, to put it very simply, the Tour de France is almost always won by the stronger rider. Whether you have a great team or an average, tactics suddenly get a lot easier when you have the best runner in the race. Plus, as has been shown so often in the past, these teammates take on the challenge of having the yellow jersey to defend.
It’s also a good time to remember that Pogacar is only 22 years old. He still hasn’t peaked and that must be a scary proposition to consider when you have to compete with him. Climbing ability, time trial prowess and the sprinting kick of a small group are a fantastic combination. Most leaders will have some ability to perform in all three areas, but it’s quite rare to find a runner who excels in all of them.
The question that began to arise even before the final stages was: where are the Ineos Grenadiers going from here?
Arrived at the start in Brittany with four protected riders, the tactics seemed fluid at best and confused at worst. I was wondering when was the last time the multi-leader script produced the goods and, by memory, it could have been the 1985 Tour with Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond. It can hardly be said that it was a harmonious atmosphere that reigned in the team during this race, and also the following year when the Frenchman “helped” (his description, not mine) the American in his first of three. victories in the general classification. Helped would probably be better replaced by antagonized as far as I’m concerned but, as Hinault said at the end of the rocky alliance with Lemond, he was only making sure that Greg was good enough to be a winner.
So that brings us to take a closer look at the British team and its multitude of riches in the field of talent. In terms of stage races, they won all the major preparatory events for the Tour de France, with Geraint Thomas in Romandie, Richie Porte in the Dauphiné and Richard Carapaz in the Tour de Suisse. It looked perfect, except that they hadn’t faced Roglič or Pogačar in any of these.
They were good, but the suspicion that good would not be enough against the Slovenes was quickly evident when Pogacar won the first time trial and then taught everyone a lesson on the first mountain stage at Le Grand Bornand. . By this point Thomas was damaged, Porte had settled into the support role he had returned to play and Geoghegan Hart looked more than a little shocked at the level that exists on the Tour. Carapaz was left to face Pogacar and gave it a go, but was ultimately left out as the Ecuadorian was passed, sprinted and completely passed the clock.
When you add up all the positives and negatives of the Ineos Tour de France team, you realize that there are going to be changes if they are going to challenge the collective strength of Jumbo-Visma and the individual brilliance of Pogacar. The Tour’s end-of-season position in 2020 has made the UAE recruiting process more difficult than usual for a team looking to strengthen themselves to support a Tour de France champion, but that won’t be the case for them now. . Good riders will want to be part of its future successes.
Jumbo-Visma won four stages and a second place overall even after losing four riders, so the lament of being affected by the stress of the Tour does not ring true for every team and certainly not that of the British with the great resources. .
Perhaps their organization will undergo a restructuring with the announcement of Dave Brailsford’s health issues, but it’s pretty much certain that they’ll have looked at their best team’s performance on the Tour and realized they need to start rebuild a new core of runners. it will be competitive on the biggest stage. That they never seemed to win a single stage is a damning conclusion that Jim Ratcliffe, the team owner, will have noted. He’ll ask where his money went and wonder about the loss of momentum of a team known for planning ahead.
It’s not all sadness, however, as next month Tom Pidcock will make his Grand Tour debut at Vuelta a España and it will be a highly anticipated test for the youngster who has shown he has the ability. to compete on most terrains with the best riders. Egan Bernal’s victory at the Giro d’Italia saves him immediate embarrassment, but the way his back problems are resolved could be a problem and it should be remembered that he was under pressure in the last mountains of the Giro, suggesting he wasn’t quite the runner who everyone feared the climb.
The manner in which Pogacar secured victory on the Tour means that anyone who hopes to compete with him will have to be excellent everywhere and especially on big occasions.
Expect to see the Ineos checkbook come out during transfer season, and there might be some surprises. There was a rumor circulating among the Spanish Tour media that they might be interested in a certain Primož Roglič. It is not at the end of the contract, but when does it matter before? Wait and watch.
The other big story of the Tour de France 2021 has been the return of Mark Cavendish, which has been an utterly captivating story of success and suffering, emotion and execution.
The Manxman winning a stage seemed like a possibility, but to equal Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 Tour de France stage wins would have been a crazy idea at the start of the race. That Mark didn’t sprint to his 35th Champs Elysees victory and complete the fairytale resurrection shows that each of these previous victories has been earned by doing everything at the right time with the right people. He will be back next year and you will have very little chance of him being part of any other team than the one led by Patrick Lefevere.
Tom Pidcock and Mark Cavendish may be at completely different times in their lives, but they’re just as inspiring to watch.