Sam Bennett was untouchable in the green jersey on stage 21 of the Tour de France 2020, taking the victory in the prestigious Champs-Élyées sprint.
The Irishman, who had already wrapped up the points classification in the intermediate sprint early in the stage, launched early with around 350 metres left to the line and his rivals were nowhere near.
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World Champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) took a strong second, with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) third, but it was Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) who closed out a dream Tour de France with a second stage victory.
Tadej Pogačar celebrated his only day in the yellow jersey and formally won the 2020 Tour de France 2020, by almost a minute over Primož Roglič.
How it happened
The traditional procession stage of the Tour de France 2020 started with all the usual fanfare for the deserving winner, Tadej Pogačar, as the cycling world still tried to come to terms with near-impossible time trial victory 24 hours before.
Pogačar shared moments with his team-mate in the neutralised start to the race, and was also joined by his rival Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), with both Slovenians sharing a photo opportunity after doing battle on the roads of France over the last three weeks.
There was a welcome, if small, show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement from the peloton, as Kevin Reza, the only black rider in this Tour, was placed at the front of the race alongside the yellow jersey.
As the flag dropped at kilometre zero, the pace remained sedate as the riders faced a mostly flat 122km stage from Mantes-la-Jolie, not far from Versailles, to the iconic Champs-Élysées sprint finish in Paris.
There was just one categorised climb to deal with, 13km into the stage, as riders had to crest the category four Côte de Beulle (2.3km at 3.6 per cent). The peloton rolled over the climb with no competition for the KoM point, as the polka-dot jersey had already been comfortably wrapped up by yellow jersey winner Tadej Pogačar
After the climb it was onto Paris, with the peloton entering the city after 56km of racing and crossing the finish line for the first time 10km later, with eight laps of the famous circuit left to tackle.
The pace gradually began to increase in anticipation of the day’s intermediate sprint point, 81km into the stage, with the first attacks firing from the front of the bunch from riders hoping to establish the day’s breakaway.
Connor Swift (Arkéa-Samsic) and Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) both took small groups up the road but had no lucky with their moves.
But Swift tried again and managed to get clear as part of a very strong quad of riders, along with Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Pierre Luc Perichon (Cofidis).
With just a kilometre left to the intermediate sprint, Bennett moved himself into prime position at the front of the bunch, as it was still unclear if Peter Sagan would contest the points to keep himself in the green jersey competition at the end of the stage.
But after the breakaway group swept up most of the points, Bennett led the peloton through the sprint while Sagan didn’t contest, which confirmed Bennett as the winner of the points classification – the first Irishman to win the green jersey since Sean Kelly in 1989.
With those formalities out of the way, it was onto the race for the stage, arguably the most prestigious sprint in all of cycling.
With 40km left of the stage, the four-rider break had just 20 seconds over the bunch, with a lot of motivated teams back in the bunch, most notably Deceuninck – Quick-Step for Bennett, Lotto-Soudal for Caleb Ewan and Sunweb for Cees Bol.
The gap was pinned at around 20 seconds and with 17km left to race the peloton still had the escapees on a tight leash.
With 7km to the line Swift sat up and was swept up by the peloton as Van Avermaet and his companions dug in to slightly extend their lead, but with just 15 seconds over the bunch their chances were slim to say the least.
The breakaway met it’s demise 3.5km from the line as Sunweb hit the front of the bunch, with Trek-Segafredo not far behind, while Deceuninck and Bora were both motivated.
Inside the final kilometre and Michael Mørkøv hit the front for Bennett, holding his position into the final right-hand turn with 600m to the line.
Bennett was in forth wheel at the turn and then launched his sprint a long with out, 350m from the line to set up a drag race with Pedersen.
But Bennett had time it perfectly just continued to gain the world champion, crossing the line with almost a bike-length to spare.
Pedersen finished second with Sagan third, to end the 2020 Tour de France.
Tour de France 2020, stage 21: Mantes-la-Jolie to Paris, Champs-Élysées (122km)
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 2-53-32
2. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
5. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis
6. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
7. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal
8. Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Israel Start-Up Nation
9. Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM
10. Max Walscheid (Ger) NTT Pro Cycling, all at same time
Final general classification
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 87-20-05
2. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 59s
3. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, at 3-30
4. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, 5-58
5. Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 6-07
6. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 6-47
7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 7-48
8. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at 8-02
9. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 9-25
10. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-McLaren, at 14-03
Final points classification
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, 380 points
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, 284 pts
3. Matteo Trentin (Ita) CCC Team, 260 pts
4. Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM, 181 pts
5. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, 181 pts
Final youth classification
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 87-20-05
2. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 6-07
3. Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-42-22
4. Daniel Martínez (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at 1-54-22
5. Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 2-14-33
Final King of the Mountains classification
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, 82 pts
2. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, 74 pts
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, 67 pts
4. Marc Hirschi (Sui) Sunweb, 62 pts
5. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, 51 pts
Final team classification
1. Movistar (Esp) , in 262-15-22
2. Jumbo-Visma (Ned) , at 18-23
3. Bahrain-McLaren (Brn) , at 56-50
4. EF Pro Cycling (USA), at 1-16-39
5. Trek-Segafredo (USA), 1-39-23
Tour de France super-combativity award
Marc Hirschi (Sui) Sunweb