Sam Bennett wins green (and wins in green)
Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – QuickStep) won the final stage of the 2020 Tour de France with another exceptional sprint.
He becomes the first rider to win on the Champs-Élysées in the green jersey since Mark Cavendish in 2011, as well as only the second rider who isn’t Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to win the jersey since then.
You might have thought he would be too tired to sprint at his best, having spent so much time having to mark Sagan in defence of his green jersey, and battling to avoid the time limit in the mountains.
But Bennett was as quick as ever, finishing off a typically proficient lead-out from Michael Mørkøv to claim his second stage win of the race.
A usually restrained figure, Bennett was visibly ecstatic, letting out several roars of exaltation after crossing the line, and lifting his bike over his head in triumph.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” the delighted Irishman explained at the finish. “The green jersey, the Champs-Élysées, th World Championships of sprinting. I never thought I’d ever be able to win this stage. And to do it in green is so special.”
It was the icing on the cake for a Tour de France performance that has exceeded even his highest expectations.
Tadej Pogačar makes history
As ever, the riders in the yellow, green, polka-dot and white jerseys stretched across the road at the front of the peloton, posing for the photographers to form one of the famously colourful images the Tour de France is known for.
However, it was a misleading sight. The man in white (Enric Mas, Movistar) and the man in polka-dots (Richard Carapaz, Ineos Grenadiers) were not in fact the champions of the classifications their jerseys represented, but rather custodians for the man wearing yellow, Tadej Pogaćar (UAE Team Emirates).
Pogačar becomes the first ever rider to win the overall classification, mountains classification and best young rider classification at the Tour de France. And even if you hypothetically award the white jersey to whichever rider would have won it before its introduction, you still have to go all the way back until Eddy Merckx in 1969.
Added to the fact that the rider as young as him has won the Tour since 1904, it is a colossal achievement. Not bad for a man celebrating his 22nd birthday tomorrow.
Contrasting emotions on the rest of podium
The final day of the Tour de France is one of reflection, when the intensity of the racing is put on hold as the riders approach Paris, giving them time to take stock of what they’ve achieved.
It’s an emotional day for various reasons, but for the two riders standing either side of Pogačar on the podium, those emotions could hardly have contrasted more.
Having believed he was destined for the top step of that podium as little as 24 hours ago, Roglič must surely be hurting deeply, but he didn’t show it. The Jumbo-Visma rider has cut a remarkably gracious figure in defeat, from the moment he took time to congratulate Pogč3ar almost immediately after losing the yellow jersey yesterday, to the start of the day’s stage, when he smiled with his arm around Pogačar’s shoulder.
If that smile had to be forced a little, there was nothing exaggerated about Richie Porte’s glee. The Australian has dreamed of standing on that podium since making his debut in 2011, back when the man stood next to him, Pogačar, was just a twelve-year-old boy. Despite being thwarted at every attempt, his commitment has never waned, to the point where he sacrificed witnessing the birth of his child, Eloise, in order to try again this year.
He now gets to travel home from Paris to see her for the first time, with his long-held dream fulfilled.
An eerily quiet Champs-Élysées
As comfortingly familiar as seeing the Tour de France come to an end on the Champs-Élysées, the absence of fans at the roadside was a potent reminder of the compromised circumstances this race has taken place under.
Lockdown restrictions meant that fans were drastically limited on the circuit, making for a much more quiet, subdued occasion than usual.
After all fears that the Covid pandemic would prevent the race from making it to Paris — or, for that matter, even taking place at all — the atmosphere in Paris was more than of relief than of jubilant celebration.
It was an appropriate end to what has been an unusual Tour de France. Hopefully next year things will be closer to normal again.
A half-hearted anti-racism protest
When rumours emerged that there would be some kind of gesture in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement at the start of stage 21, it seemed as though it would be one of the day’s main talking points. Instead, the lack of any substantial protest that was the story.
Some riders, including Kévin Reza (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), the only black rider present at this year’s Tour de France, wore masks during the neutral zone with the message ‘No to Racism’ written on them, but that was all the protest amounted to.
Cycling has stuck out compared with other major sports since the Black Lives Matters protests. Whereas the sight of athletes ‘taking the knee’ has become a familiar sight in sports like sports across the world, from American football to football, cycling has been conspicuously quiet on the subject.
“I’m not waiting for a revolt in the peloton because I know there won’t be one,” said Reza earlier in the Tour. Based on today’s showing, he might have been right.