Cadel Evans and Mark Cavendish, each twice runners-up in, respectively, the Tour de France general and points classifications, this afternoon secured the jerseys they most coveted as a thrilling 98th edition of the race came to an end in Paris. By winning on the Champs-Elysees for an unprecedented third time in a row, Cavendish secured the green jersey he so narrowly missed out on to Alessandro Petacchi last year and Thor Hushovd in 2009, while Evans, second in 2007 and 2008, finally got to stand on the top step of the podium.
HTC-Highroad's Cavendish becomes only the second British rider to win a jersey of any description in the Tour de France, joining Robert Millar, winner of the mountains competition in 1984. Other Australians have clinched jerseys at the Tour – Robbie McEwen and Baden Cooke have both one the points jersey – but BMC Racing's Evans is the first from anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere to have won the maillot jaune.
Last year, Cavendish’s usual leadout man Mark Renshaw, disqualified earlier in the race, was missing as the Manxman sprinted to his second consecutive win at the most famous finish line in cycling, but today, just as he had done in 2009, he was there to deliver him to the right place at the right time.
Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen was on Cavendish’s wheel coming into the last 200 metres, but there was never any doubt about who was going to win and the Norwegian finished second, with Omega Pharma Lotto’s Andre Greipel third.
Victory today took Cavendish’s haul from this year’s Tour de France to five stages, and he has now won 20 in the last four editions of the race. If his rate of success continues is on target to become the most successful rider ever in terms of stage wins within three years.
Before the start of today’s stage in the Parisian suburb of Creteil that produced the late Laurent Fignon, twice a winner of the race, the peloton doffed helmets to commemorate the victims of Friday’s tragic attacks in Norway, the country’s two representatives in the Tour, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Thor Hushovd, in the front row alongside those in the jerseys of the various classifications.
The silence of the riders struck a dignified and sombre tone before the riders rolled away from the start line, a stark contrast to RadioShack’s unsanctioned LiveStrong jersey publicity stunt 12 months ago that had delayed the beginning of the final stage of the 2010 Tour.
Maillot jaune Evans, mountains classification winner Samuel Sanchez of Euskaltel-Euskadi and Pierre Rolland of Europcar in the best young rider’s white jersey had of course already done enough to ensure that they could relax and enjoy the leisurely opening kilometres of a winding parcours through the southeastern suburbs of the French capital, but Mark Cavendish of course had unfinished business, his eyes not only on the stage win but also on defending the green jersey.
Missing the cut-off time on the Galibier on Thursday had seen the Manxman’s lead at the top of the points classification more than halved to 15 points after the jury applied the mandatory 20-point penalty. Luckily for Cavendish, when he finished just outside the time limit again on the Alpe d’Huez on Friday, the group he was in included his closest rival, Movistar’s Jose Joaquin Rojas.
With Evans, at 34 years of age the oldest winner of the Tour de France since Henri Pelissier in 1923, sipping the obligatory glass of Champagne at the front of the peloton, the pace remained sedate as the peloton followed a twisting and turning route lined with spectators.
Some 15 kilometres in, superstition led the maillot jaune-designate to change his custom yellow BMC bike for the red and black one he has ridden throughout this year’s race, although of course in line with convention, there was no attack from the Schleck brothers or anyone else for that matter, and it was a leisurely business for Evans to rejoin the peloton, rather than a desperate chase.
George Hincapie, the man who a decade ago was helping Lance Armstrong to overall victory, led BMC Racing onto the Champs Elysées for the first of the nine laps of the now traditional closing circuit, first used in 1975.
Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha was the first to try and launch and break, but with the peloton whipping along at speeds in excess of 50 kilometres an hour, the attack didn’t stick.
The next big move, towards the end of the second lap, was again launched by a Team Sky rider, Ben Swift, and this time it did get away, the Yorkshireman joined by super-combativity winner Jeremy Roy of FDJ, Lars Bak from HTC-Highroad, the RadioShack rider Sergio Paulinho, AG2R’s Christophe Riblon and Kristjan Koren from Liquigas-Cannondale, the latter picking up the maximum points on offer at the intermediate sprint on the third lap.
Behind, in the peloton, Cavendish got a great leadout from his HTC Highroad colleagues to pick up 9 points, Matt Goss also nipping in front of Rojas to deny the Spaniard an additional point.
The Manxman thus stretched his lead to 17 points, immediately stopping in front of the Arc de Triomphe to change his bike, presumably due to a technical problem, with Bernie Eisel quickly pacing him back to the bunch.
With two laps of the 6 kilometre closing circuit to come, the breakaway riders still had a lead of around 30 seconds, but with Lampre and Quick Step among the teams forcing the pace at the front of the peloton, that lead had been halved by the time they commenced the final lap.
Swift attacked again with a little over half a lap left, but was quickly caught and overtaken by Bak, given the green light to go for a solo win since it would have seen him claim maximum points and thereby deny them to Rojas, but he would be swept up ahead of the flamme rouge as the race came down to the almost inevitable bunch sprint.
Tour de France Stage 21 Result 1 CAVENDISH Mark HTC - HIGHROAD 2h 27' 02" 2 HAGEN Edvald Boasson SKY PROCYCLING All at same time 3 GREIPEL André OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 4 FARRAR Tyler GARMIN - CERVELO 5 CANCELLARA Fabian LEOPARD-TREK 6 OSS Daniel LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 7 BOZIC Borut VACANSOLEIL-DCM 8 VAITKUS Tomas ASTANA 9 CIOLEK Gerald QUICK STEP 10 ENGOULVENT Jimmy SAUR-SOJASUN 11 HINAULT Sébastien AG2R LA MONDIALE 12 BOLE Grega LAMPRE - ISD 13 RENSHAW Mark HTC - HIGHROAD 14 FLECHA Juan Antonio SKY PROCYCLING 15 VENTOSO Francisco MOVISTAR 16 DUMOULIN Samuel COFIDIS 17 IGNATYEV Mikhail KATUSHA 18 IGLINSKIY Maxim ASTANA 19 PETACCHI Alessandro LAMPRE - ISD 20 TURGOT Sébastien EUROPCAR Tour de France Final Overall Standings 1 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING 86h 12' 22" 2 SCHLECK Andy LEOPARD-TREK + 01' 34" 3 SCHLECK Frank LEOPARD-TREK + 02' 30" 4 VOECKLER Thomas EUROPCAR + 03' 20" 5 CONTADOR Alberto SAXO BANK SUNGARD + 03' 57" 6 SANCHEZ Samuel EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 04' 55" 7 CUNEGO Damiano LAMPRE - ISD + 06' 05" 8 BASSO Ivan LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 07' 23" 9 DANIELSON Tom GARMIN - CERVELO + 08' 15" 10 PERAUD Jean-Christophe AG2R LA MONDIALE + 10' 11"
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.