Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) will win the 2021 Tour de France in Paris on Sunday after safely defending his lead on the stage 20 time trial.
The Slovenian finished eighth on the stage, just shy of a minute from the victory, having ridden a fairly cautious time trial to avoid any late accidents that might ruin his carrying the yellow jersey onto the Champs-Élysées tomorrow.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) took victory on the stage, his second of the race, setting a top time of 35-53 on the 30.8km course in southwest France.
Van Aert's team-mate Jonas Vingegaard sealed second overall on his Tour debut and third on the stage, cutting his deficit to Pogačar from 5-45 to 5-20. Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) meanwhile will finish third overall at 1-43 behind Vingegaard, having started the stage with a six-second deficit to second place.
How it happened
The penultimate stage of the Tour de France 2021, and in a modern sense the last of competitive stages in the general classification, would see riders take on a predominantly flat 30.8km individual time trial from Libourne to Saint-Émilion.
While there was no expectation of a shake-up at the top of the GC like in 2020’s edition - Tadej Pogačar holding a near six minute lead over Jonas Vingegaard - there would be a plethora of riders aiming for a late stage victory, as well as a chance for some of those in the top-10 overall to move up a spot. Richard Carapaz in third sat just six seconds off Vingegaard in second place at the start of the stage, while Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) would hope to overturn a 32-second deficit to Ben O’Connor (Ag2r Citroën Team) and move from fifth to fourth.
Many of the riders in the early proceedings took on the course to simply make it round within the time cut, though there were strong early efforts from Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) and Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-First).
It was Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) that really set the benchmark for the other time triallists to come, riding the course in a blisteringly fast 36-15 (50.9kmh).
It looked like the Danish champion would be dislodged by the European champion Stefan Küng as he went through the intermediate splits narrowly faster. The Swiss rider’s efforts appeared to take their toll before the end though and he was well behind Asgreen as he approached the finish, crossing the line 17 seconds down to miss out on the stage win.
Even if Küng had managed to hold on and beat Asgreen it still would have unlikely been enough to take the stage win after Wout van Aert completed the course. The Belgian looked on absolutely flying form, going quickest through the intermediate checkpoints at 7.6km and 20.1km.
He was able to hold his effort all the way to the line in Saint-Émilion, finishing ahead of Asgreen in a time of 35-53 (51.4kmh) to move into the hotseat, now with just the GC contenders to take to the course.
It was clear early into the top-10 on GC that not many of them would be able to touch Van Aert’s time. Wilco Kelderman and Ben O’Connor both went all in, but their race was really between each other. They both finished the stage over two minutes down on the day’s winner, but O’Connor was able to hold on to fourth place overall despite finishing 21 seconds behind Kelderman who takes fifth. In fact, there were no changes in placings in the top-10 overall after the final time trial.
Van Aert’s team-mate Vingegaard looked like he might have a chance of surpassing the top time, riding only slightly slower than Van Aert through the intermediate time checks. But by the finish he’d lost over half a minute, finishing third on the stage but also his second place overall after Richard Carapaz finished 2-09 down on the stage.
As for the race leader Pogačar, there wasn’t the same ferocity in his time trial effort as we saw in his winning ride on stage five, taking the corners with more caution as he simply needed to finish safely to confirm his Tour de France overall victory.
The 22-year-old did just that, taking eighth on the stage at 57 seconds, setting up his second overall win which he’ll officially confirm on Sunday’s stage 21.
The final stage of the 2021 Tour de France is a 108.4km route from Chatou to a finish on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, where we should see a sprint finish to culminate the 108th edition.
Tour de France 2021, stage 20: Libourne to Saint-Émilion (30.8km ITT)
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 35-53
2. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 21 seconds
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 32s
4. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, at 38s
5. Stefan Bissegger (Sui) EF Education-Nippo, at 44s
6. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 49s
7. Mikkel Bjerg (Den) UAE Team Emirates, at 52s
8. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 57s
9. Magnus Cort (Den) EF Eduation-Nippo, at 1-00
10. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 1-21
General classification after stage 20
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 80-16-59
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 5-20
3. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 7-03
4. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r Citroën Team, at 10-02
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 10-13
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 11-43
7. Alexey Lusenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 12-23
8. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 15-33
9. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 16-04
10. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at 18-34
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1