Van Aert spoils Cavendish party as Belgian charges to victory in Paris

Wout van Aert spoils Mark Cavendish’s party as Belgian charges to victory in Paris and blocks Manx Missile from taking record 35th stage… as Tadej Pogacar seals overall victory on final day of Tour de France

  • Wout van Aert sprinted to victory on the final stage of the Tour de France 
  • Mark Cavendish finished third, falling short of taking a record 35th stage win
  • The Manx Missile ends a sensational Tour with four wins and the green jersey 
  • Tadej Pogacar crossed the line in Paris to seal back-to-back overall victories  

Ever since the unthinkable drifted into view, Mark Cavendish has refused to peer down the lens of destiny — at least in public.

The 36-year-old has avoided saying the name Eddy Merckx. He has resisted talk of what could lie around the corner.

Instead, as every hurdle between him and history fell, the Manxman always maintained: each stage win is simply that. 

Wout Van Aert took victory on Stage 21 of the Tour de France, beating Mark Cavendish (right) 

‘Cav’ couldn’t grab his record 35th stage, but joined Tadej Pogacar on the podium to collect the green jersey after the Slovenian dominated the yellow jersey race 

And then, on the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees, the mask finally slipped. As Wout van Aert and Jasper Philipsen trapped him against the barrier, and stage win No 35 drifted out of sight, Cavendish tilted his head. He gritted his teeth. He banged his handlebars in frustration.

So there was no fairytale finish to one of sport’s most remarkable rebirths. Instead, Cavendish had to make do with four stage wins and a second green jersey. 

That in itself proves how remarkably he has shifted through the gears of expectation ever since a last-minute call-up to this race.

He wasn’t supposed to be here, let alone troubling Merckx’s 46-year record for stage wins. Now another chance to surpass the Belgian must wait a year — at least.

It was Merckx’s compatriot, Van Aert, who took the final stage of this year’s Tour with another brilliant ride. 

The Slovenian rode into Paris with his team after dominating back-to-back editions of the Tour

Jonas Vingergaard and Richard Carapaz joined the 22-year-old on the podium of the GC 

Following Saturday’s time trial victory, he held off Cavendish and Philipsen of Alpecin-Fenix.

‘To finish with a win like this is beyond expectations,’ Van Aert said. ‘A victory like this is priceless.’

Last night he boarded a flight in search of Olympic glory, too. For Cavendish, meanwhile, the coming days will offer ample opportunity to reflect on a remarkable race.

‘He just froze,’ was Chris Boardman’s brutal verdict. ‘That wasn’t the Mark Cavendish we’ve seen before.’

The spectacular final stage brought the race to an end after three weeks of suffering 

The riders stormed through Paris before Van Aert grabbed his third stage win of the race 

Before long, the pain of falling short should make way for pride. But how Cavendish will yearn for another crack.

This was not quite the procession into Paris we have come to expect. Except for Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar who, at 22, toasted a second straight yellow jersey — as well as victory in the mountain and young rider classifications. No one has won two Tours at such a young age.

Pogacar and his UAE-Emirates team led the field over the line for the first of nine trips around the Champs-Elysees circuit. 

From there, the peloton reeled in several breakaways and splinter attacks to set up a sprint finish. But with Cavendish eyeing a fifth win in Paris, a gap never appeared.

Not that the Manxman’s children seemed to care as they led him on to the podium to celebrate the green jersey — and a phenomenal effort. It was some ride.

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