Britain’s Mark Cavendish, wearing the best sprinter’s green jersey, passes vineyards during the twentieth stage of the Tour de France cycling race, an individual time-trial over 30.8 kilometers (19.1 miles) with start in Libourne and finish in Saint-Emilion, France, Saturday, July 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
- The final stage of the Tour de France (Sunday, July 18) is a traditional flat route that ends at the Champs-Élysées
- Much of Sunday’s race is slow and ceremonial, but the bunch sprint at the end could be historically important
- Will Mark Cavendish break the all-time Tour record for stage victories? Bet on or against him?
Tadej Pogacar can relax and celebrate.
Saturday’s Individual Time Trial was the last competitive portion of this year’s Tour de France. Pogacar simply needed to avoid coughing up a nearly six minute lead and though Wout van Aert dominated the day, Pogacar safely clinched the overall title.
While Pogacar can enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the mostly ceremonial Stage 21, the final 7 kilometres, eight laps around the Champs-Élysées, could be history making. It has been a remarkable Tour for veteran Mark Cavendish. He hadn’t won a stage since 2016, and was not a part of the race the last two years. Because of an injury he got the call this year, has won four stages, and one more would break the all time record for stage victories.
Cavendish (-175) is a huge favorite when the final stage begins (7:05 am ET) on Sunday. Let’s look at the odds and consider where we can find value betting on or against Cavendish.
Tour de France Stage 21 Odds
|Wout Van Aert||+550|
Odds as of July 17 at DraftKings
The expected contenders posted the best times during Saturday’s Individual Time Trial. Van Aert was 21 seconds better than Kasper Asgreen. Jonas Vingegaard finished third, allowing him to pass Richard Carapaz and finish second in the overall race.
Pogacar leads Vingegaard by 5:20 entering the final stage, with Carapaz 7:03 back. Nobody else is within 10 minutes of the lead. Ben O’Conner is in fourth place and Wilco Kelderman is fifth.
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Though most of Sunday’s trek involves congratulations, allowing Pogacar and his team to enjoy the overall victory taking photos along the way and sipping on some bubbly, indeed a bunch sprint at the end is extremely likely. Cavendish has won this stage four times, but not since 2012. The final burst has little nuance, it is a true sprint.
There is little reason Cavendish shouldn’t get a strong lead-out from Team Deceuninck–Quick-Step, and then it is up to him to beat out his competitors. What makes things easier is the departure of several top speedsters because of injuries and exhaustion throughout this year’s race.
Let’s look carefully on at some contenders on Stage 21.
The storybook ending is not only a possibility, but perhaps likely. Cavendish, only riding this year because of an injury to Sam Bennett, is seeking his fifth stage win of 2021 and 35th in his career. At the age of 36 his career seemed over, but now he needs one more victory to pass Eddy Merckx and stand alone in the record books.
Cavendish has already won the Green Jersey, but this is all about history. He’ll never have a better chance with a bunch of top sprinters not in the field, a top team, and a chance to ride off into the sunset in a perfectly fairy tale type way. It is far from a guarantee, but he has thrived with these opportunities for years.
Van Aert can do it all. He was strong in Saturday’s time trial, won a mountain stage this year, and with few traditional sprinters remaining, is among the quick men as well.
The argument for anyone other than Cavendish is two-pronged. First, we really don’t know his condition at this point. The expected sprint on Stage 19 didn’t develop and therefore it is unclear if he has his legs in pretty good shape or if they are bruised and damaged from difficult days in the mountains. Also, sprints are necessarily unpredictable.
While it is easy to highlight the contenders, it doesn’t take much for someone to be eliminated. It could be strategy by an opponent, a poor lead-out, a mechanical issue, or just racing luck. Indeed Cavendish is equipped with the best tools, but a lot can go wrong too. If nothing goes awry, he is very likely to win. That, however, is no sure shot.
Coming into this year’s Tour the Alpecin-Fenix team seemed to have a lot of opportunity to succeed in sprints and hybrid stages. When Mathieu van der Poel won Stage 2 and wore yellow for five days things were great. On Stage 3 Tim Merlier cashed in. However, van der Poel and Merlier are both out of the race, and have been for over a week, and now it is up to Jasper Philipsen.
Philipsen has not outsprinted Cavendish yet on this year’s Tour, but he is more than capable. In April he won Scheldeprijs, and took the green jersey at the Tour of Turkey. Last year he took a stage at the Vuelta a España.
André Greipel and Cees Bol are two traditional style sprinters who should flourish on the Champs-Élysées. Both are bigger, and stronger, and have experience on this stage.
Greipel is 39 years old and has been in the top five six times on this stage. Bol is 25 years old, and has a bright future, but has struggled this Tour. He has failed to notch a Top 5 on any stage after managing a runner up performance last year on Stage 5.
Christophe Laporte (+3000) was the runner up on Stage 19. The 28-year-old from France would love to earn his first stage victory in Paris.
Laporte is in great form and having an excellent year. He won the points title at Étoile de Bessèges, and triumphed at the Circuit de Wallonie.
Dave Friedman has covered professional and college sports for two decades. From ESPN to the Associated Press, Regional Sports Networks, Metro Networks, and many local outlets, he has written about and broadcast major and minor events throughout the country.